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Avalanche wins fourth straight with 2-1 over Canucks in Forsberg's first

Vancouver Canucks left winger Daniel Sedin, right, looks on as a shot by teammate Ryan Shannon shoots past Colorado Avalanche goalie Jose Theodore for a score in the second period in Denver on Tuesday, March 4, 2008. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/David Zalubowski

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Vancouver Canucks left winger Daniel Sedin, right, looks on as a shot by teammate Ryan Shannon shoots past Colorado Avalanche goalie Jose Theodore for a score in the second period in Denver on Tuesday, March 4, 2008. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/David Zalubowski

DENVER - Peter Forsberg didn't want anyone to expect too much from him in his first game back.

Now, they're going to expect a lot.

Forsberg showed very little rust in his return, John-Michael Liles scored his first goal in nearly four months and the Colorado Avalanche won their fourth straight, beating the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 on Tuesday night.

"I thought he was very effective, very dangerous," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's fun to watch."

Quenneville didn't plan on playing Forsberg for nearly 20 minutes, but he just looked too good on the ice to limit his time.

"I asked him about the halfway mark how he was feeling and he said he was feeling good," Quenneville said.

Forsberg showed no signs that he'd been out of the game for almost a year. He had a nifty give-and-go with Joe Sakic that Roberto Luongo turned aside, displayed some nice moves on his troublesome right foot and even mixed it up a little bit with Alex Burrows.

It was vintage Forsberg.

"Of course you want to get a goal or an assist, but I'm just happy we won the game," said Forsberg, who has only gone through one practice and one skatearound with the team since signing a one-year deal last week. "That's all that matters now."

The Avalanche are 4-0 since signing Forsberg and acquiring defencemen Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei just before the trade deadline.

What's more, the Avalanche passed Vancouver and moved into seventh place in the Western Conference. The team has now won four straight over the Canucks.

"It's our biggest win of the year," Quenneville said. "We've got a little momentum going."

Not to be overshadowed in the numerous ovations for Forsberg by the fans was the play of Jose Theodore, who won his fourth straight game, his longest streak of the season.

Theodore stopped 26 shots, including a blast by a Markus Naslund just as the final horn was about to sound.

"Great save by Jose," Quenneville said.

The Avalanche goalie was momentarily stunned midway through the second period when Matt Pettinger accidentally kneed him in the back of the head as Theodore tried to make a save.

Theodore stayed down on the ice for several minutes, before popping back up and returning to the net.

"I kind of blacked out a little bit," Theodore said. "I was a little wobbly. When I got up, everything was good."

The return of Forsberg couldn't have come at a better time for the Avalanche, who lost Marek Svatos and Ryan Smyth to injuries against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.

Svatos will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL and Smyth is out indefinitely after suffering a concussion and a minor shoulder separation on a violent check into the glass partition near the Avalanche bench.

"I was just happy I was out there," Forsberg said. "I felt OK, not bad, not good."

The Canucks gave Forsberg high marks in his first game back.

"He looked good," said Henrik Sedin, who's from the same town in Sweden as Forsberg. "It was fun to see him play again."

Even more fun for Sakic to be on the same line as him.

"He's such a smart hockey player and he makes everyone better," Sakic said. "He's very easy to play with."

Paul Stastny scored his 20th goal of the season in the first period and Andrew Brunette had two assists.

It was Liles' third goal of the season and first since Nov. 9 against the Canucks.

"It felt good," said Liles, whose shot bounced into the net off the skate of Pettinger. "The most important thing is the win. Everybody played a solid game."

Ryan Shannon scored his fourth goal of the season for the Canucks, who are winless in their last four.

"Our guys are squeezing their sticks a little bit on offence," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "It's not going in for us right now. Our guys are good hockey players and they are in a funk right now. We have to keep working."

After the game, Forsberg said his foot was all right and his conditioning level was better than he anticipated.

"It's been a long time since I played a real game," said Forsberg, who had three shots on goal. "It's going to be a real struggle here in the beginning, the first couple of games. I hope people understand that."

Notes: The Avalanche sold 1,400 additional tickets after Forsberg announced he would play. ... Avalanche F Cody McLeod became the first rookie in Colorado history to top 100 minutes in penalties during a season. He went over the mark by drawing a five-minute penalty for fighting. ... Henrik Sedin had his 52nd assist on Shannon's goal.

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