The winning goalie in a blowout isn’t usually the game’s first star, but there was little doubt Ryan Miller deserved the honour on Sunday night.
The veteran netminder made 37 saves, including a number of big ones early, as the Vancouver Canucks cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche that snapped a four-game losing streak.
Jannik Hansen had two goals, while Adam Cracknell, Radim Vrbata and Christopher Tanev, into an empty net, also scored for Vancouver (23-24-12). Henrik Sedin added four assists, while Daniel Sedin chipped in with three of his own.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 24 shots for Colorado (31-27-4), which saw its two-game winning streak come to an end. Matt Duchene replied late for the Avalanche to ruin Miller’s shutout bid.
“Millsy was enormous,” said Henrik Sedin. “It’s too bad to see the last one go in. He deserved the shutout, but we’ll take the win and move on.”
The stumbling Canucks came in having lost four straight by identical 5-2 scores, a first for an NHL team, and were 0-5-1 over their last six at Rogers Arena.
“It was good to get some separation, let the guys feel good about themselves,” said Miller. “In spite of how the games have been going there’s been some hard work.”
Playing their second game in as many nights after Saturday’s 3-2 victory in Edmonton, the Avalanche trailed 3-0 after two periods, but easily could have been ahead if not for Miller’s stellar play.
“It’s probably one of the better performances I’ve seen from a goaltender against us this year,” said Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy. “He was outstanding.”
Colorado, which occupies the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference, had a couple of opportunities in the game’s first five minutes before the Canucks grabbed the lead at 8:31 of the opening period when Cracknell shovelled home his fifth of the season.
Vrbata then rang a shot off the post behind Varlamov that stayed out before Miller stoned Carl Soderberg with a pad stop for his biggest save of the period.
“I want to help the boys out,” said Miller. “With that one I was able to keep some momentum.”
Hansen made it 2-0 with 1:14 left in the first when he buried his 18th for Vancouver, which sits seven points back of Nashville for the West’s second wild-card spot.
Miller was strong again in the second, stopping Soderberg on a short-handed breakaway and snagging a Jarome Iginla one-timer on the power play.
The Vancouver goalie was fortunate when Francois Beauchemin’s shot hit the crossbar and stayed out midway through the second.
Miller stoned Erik Johnson with a brilliant toe save on a 3-on-2 to keep his team up by two and set the stage for Vrbata’s power-play goal with 4.4 seconds left in the second. The forward had not scored in 14 games and had just one over his previous 24, but poked a rebound past Varlamov for his 12th.
“After the second period I said ‘I don’t have much to say. You guys are playing a good game,’ ” said Roy. “When a goalie plays like (Miller) did, it’s hard to come back.”
Colorado’s Blake Comeau hit the post early in the third, but Hansen bagged his second of the night and 19th of the campaign at 9:09 on a slick feed from Daniel Sedin.
Roy pulled Varlamov for an extra attacker with more than 10 minutes left in regulation, but Tanev found the empty net for his fourth at 11:37 to seal it.
Duchene finally broke Miller’s bid for his second shutout of the season and the 37th of his career with 41.8 seconds left to round out the scoring with his 26th. The Canucks challenged the play for goalie interference after Iginla wound up on top of Miller, but the call on the ice stood.
“Jarome’s a smart player. He know’s what he’s doing,” said Miller. “Tough guy like that doesn’t go down for anything and then gets a little bump and he’s on top of me. That’s gamesmanship. That’s part of it. If you were to have told me we would win 5-1 I would have taken it all night.”
Notes: Vrbata and Derek Dorsett left in the third period for Vancouver and did not return. ... Colorado hosts San Jose on Wednesday, while Vancouver welcomes Ottawa on Thursday.Report Typo/Error