Vancouver Canucks Ryan Kesler (17) sends his shot past Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jose Theodore during the second period. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
VANCOUVER - The Colorado Avalanche were the first team in NHL history to earn 95 points and still miss the playoffs last season.
This year it went down to the penultimate game of their regular season, but now they're back at the post-season dance at the expense of the Vancouver Canucks. "It feels good to be in the playoffs after missing it last year," said Canuck killer Milan Hejduk after his goal helped propel the Avalanche to a 4-2 win Tuesday night, Colorado's sixth straight over Vancouver.
"It was a really disappointing year (last year) for us. We're used to playing a lot of playoff games so it's fun to be back."
Prior to last season, the Avs had qualified for the playoffs 10 consecutive years, winning two Stanley Cups along the way.
Colorado was down 2-0 against Vancouver but stormed back with four unanswered goals, knowing the Nashville Predators could still catch them after a 4-3 overtime win against St. Louis.
"For some reason this year, they've had our number," said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. "It seems to be the same scenario. In a short span, they get two, three goals on us. That just really hurts us."
Hejduk said his club knew it had a tough comeback ahead.
"It's not the best feeling when you're down two goals but it's not the end of the world. We knew we can score goals so it had to happen."
And it did.
Hejduk scored the tying goal and Wojtek Wolski got the game-winner 35 seconds later. John-Michael Liles started the comeback in the three-goal second period and Peter Forsberg got his first of the season to provide a cushion.
Willie Mitchell, with his first goal in 51 games, and Ryan Kesler, on a power play, scored for Vancouver, now back in ninth place and out of a Western Conference playoff position.
They are one point back of the Predators. Both clubs have two games remaining. Vancouver finishes its schedule at home Thursday against Edmonton and Saturday against Calgary.
It was the sixth goal in six games for Hejduk who seems to find a way to score against Vancouver. He has 33 goals in 55 career games against the Canucks.
His last one, coming during his 700th NHL game, was controversial with teammate Paul Stastny crashing into Vancouver netminder Roberto Luongo.
"The referee said the puck went in before Paul hit Luongo," Hejduk said. "He said if it had been a split-second after he couldn't have allowed the goal."
Luongo said Stastny was guilty of interference.
"The guy was on top of me as the puck went by," Luongo said. "But as the puck was coming through, I was starting to feel contact, so he got me off balance a little bit."
Wolski scored the winner by outracing Vancouver defenders to a rebound off the end boards and snapped it behind Luongo.
Forsberg, who has missed seven of 14 games with a sore groin since signing with Colorado, scored on a breakaway when Mitchell fell in the neutral zone.
"It's not too often I'm on a breakaway but it was definitely good to be on one and score a goal," said Forsberg who also picked up an assist for 10 on the season.
"It's not too often you score on Luongo. But I got off a great shot and I was even surprised I scored. It's been a few games and it's good for the confidence to get a goal, especially now that we're going into the playoffs."
Forsberg was serving an interference penalty when Kesler shovelled home is own rebound.
"After they scored 2-0 we kind of had no choice but to wake up and play much better than we did," Forsberg said.
Trevor Linden, whose forecheck set up Mitchell's goal, said Forsberg's breakaway killed any chance of a Vancouver comeback.
"They're a very good offensive team," Linden said. "But, at the same time, we're making these mistakes defensively. It seems we get caught every time and it costs us."
NOTES: Colorado defenceman Adam Foote required several stitches after a puck hit him in the ear late in the game ... Canuck forward Taylor Pyatt took a heavy first-period hit on the side boards from Jeff Finger and did not return ... Canuck defenceman Mattias Ohlund has resumed skating after March 12 knee surgery.