VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Trailing by two goals with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, the Colorado Avalanche never thought of giving up.
Brett McLean scored his second goal late in the second period and Joe Sakic tied it with his second of the game midway through the third period. McLean then capped the comeback with the only goal of the shootout, snapping a shot under Roberto Luongo's glove for a crucial 5-4 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.
"We haven't quit during this whole stretch and it's not going to start now," Sakic said. "We've been down before and guys don't quit in here."
The Avalanche improved to 10-0-2 in their last 12 games to stay five points behind Calgary for the final playoff spot with two games left against the Flames.
"We were definitely a desperate team tonight and that's the type of attitude we have to bring for every single shift," McLean said. "We executed well and did the things we've done to get back into this playoff race."
Jose Theodore, playing his first game in a month after Peter Budaj was pulled in the first period, stopped Trevor Linden, Brendan Morrison and Daniel Sedin in the shootout to preserve his first win since Feb. 6. It was his only real busy stretch all night.
After coming in when Colorado trailed 3-1, Theodore faced only four shots in the second and third periods combined as the Avalanche shut things down defensively. Meanwhile, at the other end, McLean sparked the comeback by scoring in the final two minutes of the first two periods.
"We really bottled it up and played well defensively," Sakic said. "And obviously Jose, you can t give him enough credit. He hasn't played a lot lately and he was good for us, especially in the shootout."
Taylor Pyatt had two goals, and Daniel Sedin and Jeff Cowan also scored for the Canucks, who lost for the first time in five games and failed to clinch a playoff spot. Vancouver did move into a tie with Minnesota atop the Northwest Division, and can still claim a postseason berth with a win in Colorado on Tuesday.
"It would have been nice to win," said Luongo, who made 26 saves but failed seal his first playoff appearance in seven NHL seasons. "All in all, we know we'll make the playoffs, but we just want to finish first in our division.
It was a night of milestones for both teams.
Sakic scored both his goals in similar fashion, sneaking into the slot to convert a pass from Andrew Brunette, extending his point streak to six games (seven goals and six assists) and Brunette's to eight (one goal and 13 assists). Sakic moved into a tie with former teammate Ray Bourque for ninth on the career points list with 1,579, and into a 15th-place tie with Dino Ciccarelli on the career goal list with 610.
"It's an honor to be with those guys, but there's a lot more important stuff right now and that's for us to try and make the playoffs," Sakic said.
Henrik Sedin had three assists for 63 this season, moving one ahead of Andres Boudrais' franchise record set in 1974-75, five years before Henrik was born.
"It was a long time," Henrik said of the 32-year-old record. "I think it will be something nice to think back on after the season and after my career."
Pyatt also registered his first career 20-goal season.
None of the achievements provided consolation to Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault.
"I'm hoping they're as disappointed or embarrassed as I am about this performance tonight," he said.
Pyatt opened the scoring midway through the first. Sakic tied it three minutes later, but Daniel Sedin jammed the puck past Budaj on a power play with 3:28 left in the first period and Cowan made it 3-1 from a sharp angle just 75 seconds later.
That ended Budaj's night after 10 stops. Theodore came off the bench and barely had time to get loose before his teammates closed the gap to one goal. McLean's long shot off the boards appeared to change direction off a skate before going between Luongo's legs 16 seconds later.
"We got down and it wasn't looking that good for a while, but we got the second one there, the McLean goal, and kind of got on a roll again," Sakic said.
Luongo sprawled to rob Milan Hejduk twice on consecutive Colorado power plays early in the second period before Pyatt scored his 20th goal on a pass from behind the net. But McLean came out of the penalty box, took a long pass and beat Luongo on a breakaway with 1:49 left to make it 4-3 and set up a tight finish.
- Colorado RW Wojtek Wolski was a healthy scratch.
- Vancouver got defenseman Willie Mitchell back from a groin injury, but Mattias Ohlund joined fellow top-3 defender Sami Salo (groin) on the sidelines because of concerns about a cut on his elbow becoming infected.
- Colorado's Joel Quenneville coached his 750th career game, becoming the 29th coach to reach that number and just the fifth to also play more than 750 NHL games.
- Budaj was 9-0-2 in his previous 11 games.