Series (Game 4 of 5)

Vancouver leads 3-2

Game 1: Thursday, October 31st
Game 2: Monday, November 4th
Game 3: Wednesday, December 11th
Game 4: Monday, December 23rd
Game 5: Thursday, February 13th

Canucks 3

(20-10-0, 45 pts)

Avalanche 5

(13-8-4, 39 pts)

9:00 PM ET, December 23, 2002

Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

1 2 3 T
VAN 0 1 23
COL 2 3 05

D. McAmmond (Avalanche - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 2

P. Roy (Avalanche - G): Saves: 33, Save Pct.: .917

R. Blake (Avalanche - D): Goals: 2, Assists: 1

Blake helps Avalanche win third straight game

DENVER (AP) -- Tony Granato wanted his new club to make a statement against one of the best teams in the league.

Rob Blake

They did.

Rob Blake had two goals and an assist as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 Monday night for their third straight win under Granato.

"He talked about that a bit before the game and I think he's right,'' said Colorado's Dean McAmmond, who had a goal and two assists. "We have to beat those teams if we're going to get where we're shooting for.''

Colorado opened the season winless in eight home games and never really recovered, which led general manager Pierre Lacroix to fire coach Bob Hartley last week.

The Avalanche have responded with some of their best hockey of the season.

Colorado has knocked off three of the league's best teams during its first three-game winning streak of the season. The Avalanche are unbeaten in five straight.

Against Vancouver, the Avalanche got a goal and two assists from Derek Morris and ended a 1-for-29 slump with three power-play goals to win for the fourth time in five home games.

"I don't know if there is any magic formula. I think we are just playing well,'' Granato said. "We knew in the last three games the importance of playing teams that are in front of us in the division. The big guys made plays when they had to and we got the job done.''

Coming off victories over Edmonton and Minnesota, it didn't take the Avalanche long to keep the momentum going.

Morris opened the scoring on a power play four minutes in, beating Peter Skudra to the glove side from the top of the left circle -- Colorado's first goal with a man advantage in four games and second in eight home games.

Blake made it 2-0 with 51 seconds left, flipping a wrister from the right circle just inside the opposite post.

He followed with a power-play goal at 7:02 of the second, scoring from the left circle after a shot by Morris bounced off the boards behind Skudra.

It was Blake's fifth goal of the season and his first two-goal game since Nov. 18 last year against New Jersey.

Milan Hejduk made it 4-0 with 4:02 left, beating Skudra from the right of the crease after Alex Tanguay slipped a pass between Marek Malik and Mats Lindgren.

It was Hejduk's 14th of the season and extended his point streak to eight games, a season high for Colorado.

Skudra, who had won two straight in place of injured starter Dan Cloutier, was replaced by Tyler Moss after Hejduk's goal.

"This was one of those game,'' Skudra said. "You can't expect to play 82 games of perfect hockey. There will be nights like this. Colorado didn't hold anything back.''

Henrik Sedin scored Vancouver's first goal with 2:47 left in the second period when he flipped a shot over Patrick Roy, who was still on his back after trying to stop a shot by Markus Naslund.

Vancouver's Trevor Letowski made it 5-2 just 50 seconds into the third period, punching in a loose puck after Roy pinned a shot against the post with his skate.

Naslund scored his league-leading 23rd goal of the season, but it came with just 2:07 left in the game.

"We have to be more prepared to play in games like this,'' said Vancouver coach Marc Crawford, whose team lost for just the second time in seven games.

"We haven't had very many starts like this all year. To their credit they regrouped a little bit in the third period, but at the same time we can't kid ourselves. It was a little bit too late.''

Roy stopped 33 shots after turning away 45 in a 4-2 victory over Minnesota on Saturday.

Game notes

The teams have met four times this season, but won't see each other again until Feb. 13. ... Avalanche C Joe Sakic missed his fifth consecutive game with a sprained right ankle. ... Naslund has seven goals in six games. ... Colorado is 41-20-11 in December since 1997, including 5-2-1-1 this season. ... Vancouver lost for just the fourth time in 18 road games (12-4-2).

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press