Miller makes 37 saves, Canucks defeat Avalanche

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ryan miller

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks finally broke out of a long offensive slump Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Arena.

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Jannik Hansen scored two goals, and Henrik Sedin had four assists in a 5-1 win against the Avalanche.

But the First Star in the lopsided win was goaltender Ryan Miller, whose 37 saves included several that left the Avalanche shaking their heads.

“He was playing one [heck] of a game,” Hansen said. “No question he’s the First Star. He did everything right. When we were outplayed, outmanned, he found a way to make a save.”

It was the first time the Canucks scored more than four goals since a 5-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 7. Entering Sunday, they were 2-5-1 and averaging 1.88 goals per game in February.

The victory ended Vancouver’s four-game losing streak and six-game slide on home ice.

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It’s possible none of it would have happened without several spectacular saves from Miller early.

“We haven’t scored that many in a while, but I thought the best part was Miller’s play,” Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. “You need that sometimes to get out of a slump.”

Adam Cracknell, Radim Vrbata and Christopher Tanev, into an empty net with 8:23 left, scored for the Canucks (23-24-12), and Daniel Sedin had three assists.

Matt Duchene ended Miller’s shutout bid when he scored off a rebound with 41.8 seconds left to make it 5-1.

“[Miller] was enormous,” Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin said. “It’s too bad to see the last one go in. He deserved the shutout, but we’ll take the win and move on.”

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Miller made a brilliant right-pad save against Carl Soderberg in the first period and Erik Johnson in the second period to keep the Canucks in the game despite being outplayed for long stretches early.

“It’s probably one of the better performances I’ve seen from a goaltender against us this year,” Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. “He was moving well. He was reading plays well. He was outstanding out there. Outstanding.”

Semyon Varlamov made 24 saves for the Avalanche (31-27-4), who lost for the second time in six games despite outshooting the Canucks 38-29.

Colorado was coming off a 3-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday and had several quality chances to score early. But Miller made a handful of point-blank saves, denying Nathan MacKinnon in close three times and sliding across his crease left to right to rob Soderberg of a tap-in goal.

“I want to help the boys out,” Miller said. “I think with that one I was able to keep some momentum.”

Cracknell, the Canucks’ fourth-line center, opened the scoring 8:31 into the first period, stopping a shot atop the crease and pulling the puck around Varlamov before lifting a backhand over the sprawling goalie.

Hansen doubled the lead with 1:14 left in the first, finding a spot between four defenders in the slot and one-timing Daniel Sedin’s pass from behind the net past Varlamov.

Miller stopped Soderberg again on a shorthanded breakaway five minutes into the second period, gloved a Jarome Iginla one-timer from the left faceoff dot, and got a break when defenseman Francois Beauchemin hit the crossbar on a power play.

“We had a couple of those where he just saved it with his toe or pad and breakaways and posts and crossbars,” Soderberg said. “We had a little bit of everything. We deserved one or two goals there.”

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Cracknell, who had gone 28 games without a goal before scoring against the Calgary Flames on Friday, appeared to score again with 7:43 left in the second, but it was disallowed after a video review determined he had batted it in with his hand.

Miller denied Iginla from in close soon after, but he saved his best for Johnson with 3:31 left in the period. Trailing on a 3-on-2 rush, Johnson had an empty net to shoot at from the slot, but Miller splayed out and got his right skate on the shot.

“Some nights, you just have to tip your hat,” Duchene said. “That toe save (against Johnson), the save off Soderberg; even if you give them five, it still could have been a 5-5 game if not for him.”

Vrbata made it 3-0 when he scored on a rebound on the power play with 4.4 seconds left in the second after Varlamov was penalized for playing the puck outside the trapezoid.

The goal ended a 14-game drought and was the second in 25 games for Vrbata, who left the game limping four minutes into the third period after falling awkwardly in the corner. Desjardins didn’t have an update on Vrbata, saying he would be re-evaluated Monday.

Hansen scored his second goal on a pretty 2-on-1 pass from Daniel Sedin at 8:09 of the third. Colorado pulled Varlamov with 10:19 left for an extra attacker, and Tanev scored his second goal in 20 games into the empty net.

Despite the lopsided score, Roy couldn’t find much fault in the Avalanche’s play.

“After the second period, I said, ‘I don’t have much to say. You guys are playing a good game … we’re playing well and there’s no reason for us to change anything,'” Roy said. “When a goalie plays like [Miller] did, it’s hard to come back.”

Duchene finally scored on a late scramble, but only after Miller had been pushed out of his crease by Iginla, who was bumped from behind by Canucks center Jared McCann. The goal counted after a video review.

Miller took losing the shutout so late in stride.

“Jarome’s a smart player, he knows what he’s doing. Tough guy like that doesn’t go down for anything, and then gets a little bump and then he’s on top of me. That’s gamesmanship,” Miller said. “If you were to have told me we would win 5-1 tonight, I would have taken it all night. Right now, we’re worried about wins and positive energy. As long as all the guys are going and feeling good, we can build on that.”

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