Ian Laperriere, Joe Sakic, Marek Svatos and Antti Laaksonen staked the Avalanche to a four-goal lead, and David Aebischer helped them hold on for a 5-3 victory that snapped the Canucks' perfect home record Thursday night.
"We were ready to go," Sakic said. "We had our legs going and we were skating well and we probably caught them flat. It was a good start for us."
Ed Jovanovski and Todd Bertuzzi cut the 4-0 deficit in half early in the second, but Karlis Skrastins ended any suspense with a short-handed goal in the third for Colorado, which won for the sixth time in seven games, including three against Vancouver.
Aebischer made the best of his 25 saves by killing off four straight penalties in the third period -- including a lengthy 5-on-3 disadvantage -- as the Avalanche moved two points behind the Northwest Division-leading Canucks despite playing two fewer games.
"We had to weather the storm big time in the second period, but Abby made some big saves for us to keep it a two-goal game," Sakic said.
Richard Park scored the other Vancouver goal with 1:43 left as the Canucks lost for the first time in eight home games. They have dropped five of seven overall.
"We came out flat," said Canucks captain Markus Naslund, who had two assists. "We've gotten away with a few (slow starts) against lesser skilled teams but I think it's time for us to take a good look in the mirror now and start preparing to find a way to be ready early in games."
They certainly weren't ready against Colorado.
It only took 46 seconds for Laperriere to open the scoring after he was left alone at the side of the Vancouver net to bang in a backdoor pass from Andrew Brunette. A rebound bounced in off Sakic at 3:49, and Svatos made it 3-0 less than three minutes later on a 2-on-0 break with Steve Konowalchuk after Jovanovski gave the puck away, then fell down trying to recover.
The Avalanche registered the first 15 shots before Vancouver recorded its first with 7:15 left in the period, drawing mock cheers from the home crowd. That was all that Canucks fans had to applaud in the first as Laaksonen drove around Jovanovski and banked a shot in off Alex Auld at 12:51 to make it 4-0.
"I think it comes down to work ethic," Naslund said. "We're getting outbattled. They didn't do anything fancy, they got the puck deep and they outworked us."
Vancouver turned the tables by outshooting Colorado 14-3 in the second.
Jovanovski scored a power-play goal 1:17 into the period, and Bertuzzi beat Aebischer from the top of the slot midway through, prompting a Colorado timeout.
"All of a sudden we had a hockey game and still 30 to 35 minutes to play," said Aebischer, who made big saves off Naslund and Henrik Sedin before Skrastins extended the lead on a long shot through traffic 7:57 into the third.
"I didn't have much to do early, but you just have to stay focused," added Aebischer, who won his seventh straight start. "It's never easy when you don't get a lot of work but I stayed in there and did pretty well."
Auld also made 25 saves.
- Sakic's goal was the 548th of his career, moving him into a tie for 21st on the NHL list with Michel Goulet, who works in the Avalanche front office and was in attendance.
- The Canucks are 10-5-2, but all seven losses have come against division opponents.
- Vancouver had outscored opponents 30-16 at home.
- Colorado LW Andrew Brunette extended his point streak to six games. He has two goals and seven assists in that stretch.
- Vancouver G Dan Cloutier dressed as Auld's backup, his first game since suffering a concussion against the Avalanche on Oct. 29.