The Colorado Avalanche didn't let the absence of three top forwards stop them from taking advantage of an injury-riddle Vancouver Canucks defense.
Marek Svatos had two goals and an assist, and linemate Tyler Arnason added a goal and two assists, leading Colorado to a 6-2 win Saturday night.
Wojtek Wolski, the third member of the line, added three assists as the Avalanche traded pretty goals for gritty goals against a Canucks team missing four regular defensemen.
"When teams are missing guys on defense you have to test them early to see how they're feeling and we did that," said Arnason, who opened the scoring midway through the first and set up Svatos to make it 3-0 before the period ended. "We were getting to the net, they were letting us get in front, and they weren't covering behind the net and we capitalized early and just went from there."
Milan Hejduk also had two goals, Brett Clark scored one, and Jose Theodore made 23 saves as Colorado won for the fourth time in six games to stay within a point of Minnesota in the Northwest Division, four points ahead of Vancouver.
"We knew the importance of today's game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We still have a lot of hockey left but certainly it was a big win."
It was just as big a loss for the Canucks, who failed to build on the momentum of a win in Atlanta on Thursday night - their first in regulation since Jan. 4.
Henrik Sedin and Sami Salo scored power-play goals, and Roberto Luongo made 17 saves before being pulled as the Canucks, who have one win in their last six games and two in the last 11, fell to ninth place in the Western Conference.
Despite missing Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth and Paul Stastny, the Avalanche jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first period. They added two more 20 seconds apart late in the second, taking advantage of a Canucks team missing defensemen Willie Mitchell, Kevin Bieksa, Aaron Miller and Lukas Krajicek.
Vancouver actually buzzed Theodore in the opening minutes, but for all their puck possession in the Colorado end, the Canucks failed to generate a shot.
"Tonight we were out-executed and outworked, especially in the tough areas, in front of our net and in front of their net," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "We had glorious opportunities in the first there, and they got to all the pucks."
At the other end, Arnason opened the scoring by driving to the net - between four stationary Canucks players - to tap in a rebound of Svatos' wraparound attempt at 9:10. Hejduk snuck between two Canucks in the slot to snap home Jaroslav Hlinka's pass from the behind the net just over 2 minutes later.
Svatos made it 3-0 with 2:55 left in the first, jamming in his second chance at Arnason's rebound after Luongo made the first four saves in a scramble.
"We talked before the game about how Colorado does a great job of going to the tough areas and getting pucks to the net and getting second and third opportunities," Vigneault said. "We talked about it, we addressed it, we told them how to deal with it, and obviously we didn't execute it on the ice."
Sedin, guilty of standing around on the first two goals, shoveled a power pay rebound past Theodore 8 minutes into the second period. However, Clark beat Luongo with a seeing-eye point shot on the power play with 3:19 left in the period, and Svatos added his second 20 seconds later, again driving the net, this time to knock in a pass from Arnason cutting hard in off the left wing.
"We're moving the puck very well," Svatos said of his line. "When we get the puck, we hold the puck a little longer. We don't just throw it away. They have great vision and always find me in front of the net. (Arnason) and (Wolski) are strong guys so it's hard to take the puck away from them and that's what they do, so I try to be in front of the net and it's working out lately."
Canucks backup goalie Curtis Sanford replaced Luongo to start the third period, and Salo blew a power-play point shot past Theodore just 1:22 in. Salo hit a post on another power play just over a minute later, but Hejduk rounded out the scoring with his second goal - on Colorado's first shot of the third - at 9:21.
Theodore, who returned from missing three games because of a back injury to beat San Jose on Wednesday, improved to 8-4-1 in 2008, posting a 1.86 goals-against average and .933 save-percentage in his last 12 starts coming into this game.
"He gives us confidence, Queneville said of his goalie. "He seems to be sharp right of the bat, challenging. He handles the puck well, which eliminates some of the forechecking pressure, and you just see his confidence.
Notes: Colorado C T.J Hensick extended his point streak to four games with an assist, but failed to add his five goals the previous three games. ... The Canucks called C Ryan Shannon from Manitoba of the AHL for the game. ... Despite flying home overnight Thursday following a win in Atlanta, the Canucks play again Sunday against Chicago. ... Stastny, the Avalanche leading scorer with 49 points, is practicing with the team and expected to return soon after having an emergency appendectomy on Jan. 18.
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