Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jaroslav Halak makes a pad save against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jaroslav Halak makes a pad save against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Halak makes 32 saves as Vancouver Canucks earn 3-1 win over high-flying Avalanche

Visitors avoid being swept by Colorado for the first time since 1996-97

Brock Boeser and J.T. Miller scored 1:52 apart early in the third period, Jaroslav Halak stopped 32 shots and the Vancouver Canucks beat the NHL-leading Colorado Avalanche 3-1 on Wednesday night.

Boeser got things rolling by taking advantage of a turnover with a goal 1:23 into the final period. Miller knocked in another off a rebound moments later. Bo Horvat added an empty-net goal as the Canucks finished 1-2 against the Avalanche this season. They avoided being swept by Colorado for the first time since 1996-97 in the season series.

The Avalanche have been the third-period comeback kings this season, but couldn’t add to their total of 10, tied for tops in the league. Nazem Kadri’s power-play goal made it 2-1 early in the third.

Halak came up big down the stretch, with one sprawling save after another.

Darcy Kuemper made 24 saves in a game filled with plenty of skating and not a lot of whistles. There were long stretches with no breaks.

Miller added an assist on Horvat’s empty-netter with 17.6 seconds remaining. Miller now has 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) over his last 17 games.

Andrew Cogliano made his Avalanche debut after being acquired from San Jose at the trade deadline. The veteran forward nearly scored an early goal and demonstrated his tenacity by getting into a minor scuffle after being called for tripping.

The defence ruled the night over the opening 40 minutes. Kuemper withstood 18 shots through two periods, while Halak turned back 23 — and got some help with Kadri hitting the post.

The Avalanche have a big lead in the standings, but no plans of cruising toward the finish line. It’s full throttle all the way with three straight second-round playoff exits as motivation.

“You’re always a good team until someone shows you you’re not,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said.

The Canucks face an uphill climb to claim one of the final playoff spots. Just don’t tell them that.

“Until we’re done, we’re playing every game as if it’s our last game,” Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said after the morning skate. “Don’t necessarily look at the standings, just play it. Eventually, if you have some success, you’ll be where you want to be.”

READ MORE: Canucks make deadline deals with eyes on the future

THIS & THAT

Colorado forward Artturi Lehkonen will have to wait to make his Avalanche debut as he works through immigration issues. Lehkonen was acquired from Montreal at the trade deadline. … Singer Hazel Miller initially struggled with the start of “O Canada,” apologized to the crowd and then began again. She followed with “The Star-Spangled Banner” that received a loud applause.

FAMILY FIRST

Cogliano hopes to soon be joined in Denver by his wife and two young children. The couple’s 1-year-old daughter, Olive, is dealing with complications related to asthma that’s led to a few trips to the hospital this season.

“We’re on the right path to figuring it out,” he said.

UP NEXT

Canucks: At Minnesota on Thursday.

Avalanche: Host Philadelphia on Friday.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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