Colorado scored three times in the final 3 minutes to pull within one goal before Trevor Linden got an empty-netter to seal Vancouver's 6-4 Saturday night.
"It's been amazing some of the games we've been involved in, it's never over," said Colorado coach Joel Quenneville, who has seen his team lose four of its last five games.
Daniel Sedin's second goal of the game gave Vancouver a 5-1 lead with 7 minutes left, but Brad May and Patrice Brisebois scored 17 seconds apart, and Alex Tanguay added a power-play goal with 1:45 left to close the gap to 5-4.
Antti Laaksonen also scored for Colorado, playing for the second straight night.
"It was dumb on our part," the Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi said of the late meltdown. "We fell asleep on the bench and they got a couple of chances and capitalized and that's something we've got to address."
Bryan Allen, Ed Jovanovski and Brendan Morrison also scored for the Canucks, who swept their four-game homestand. Vancouver scored twice on the power play and two more times within seconds of a man advantage expiring to extend their winning streak to five games.
"Although we had a couple of warts on it at the end, we got two huge points that will go a long way towards us being a top team," said coach Marc Crawford, whose Canucks are 7-1-1 and one point behind Detroit for first overall in the NHL.
It was the teams' first meeting since Bertuzzi's on-ice attack on then-Avalanche forward Steve Moore on March 8, 2004. But with Colin Campbell, the NHL's executive vice-president and chief disciplinarian, in attendance there was little sign of the long-standing bad blood between the Northwest Division rivals.
"I thought it was great hockey game," Quenneville said of the fast-paced contest. "The fans got to see a special game with unbelievabvle chances at both ends."
Bertuzzi, who was suspended 17 months by the NHL and received one-year probation and community service after pleading guilty to assault causing bodily harm for the blindside punch to Moore's head, had an assist.
Moore suffered broken bones in his neck from the attack and a concussion that has prevented the unrestricted free agent from resuming his career.
Asked if he was glad to have his first game against Colorado over, Bertuzzi, who has carefully avoided the subject since the season started, said: "No, I could have played a couple more periods."
Vancouver plays consecutive games in Colorado next week and the teams meet three more times before the end of November.
Colorado outshot the Canucks 32-23, but Dan Cloutier was sharp early, especially when the Avalanche got the first three power plays of the game. He robbed Colorado captain Joe Sakic twice in close off rebounds and the Canucks responded by opening the scoring shortly after their first man-advantage expired late in the period.
Former Canucks forward Brad May had just stepped out of the box when Allen beat rookie goalie Peter Budaj cleanly with a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot.
Jovanovski doubled the lead on another power play just over 2 minutes later when he knocked his own rebound out of the air and sent the puck fluttering over Budaj, who was down after a good save on the original deflection.
Laaksonen put the Avalanche on the board early with a wraparound after Mattias Ohlund gave the puck up behind his own net, but Sedin restored the two-goal cushion with a nifty power-play deflection of twin brother Henrik's slap pass from the left boards.
Morrison made it 4-1 on a rebound and Daniel Sedin added his second on a give-and-go with his brother just as another power play expired.
"The game was over," said Daniel. "It shouldn't be a game after that, but we let them in the game and fortunately we came out of it with a win."
- Budaj finished with 17 saves.
- Colorado snapped its three-game losing streak with a 7-1 win at Edmonton on Friday night.
- Vancouver had 10 power-play goals in the last four games, moving the Canucks from 25th in the league into the top 10.
- Jovanovski also assisted on Allen's goal, giving the defenseman two goals and six assists during a four-game point-scoring streak.