VANCOUVER - Eddie Lack sensed the Vancouver Canucks were ready for another big night in their push for a playoff spot.
He couldn't have been more wrong.
Gabriel Landeskog and Alex Tanguay each had a goal and an assist, and Reto Berra made 33 saves in his first start in over four months as the Colorado Avalanche thumped the listless Canucks 4-1 on Thursday.
"Bottom line, we didn't play well enough," said Lack, who finished with 34 saves. "I can't really point to why. The locker-room and everything felt good before. I felt like we were ready ... and then we weren't."
Jarome Iginla also scored and Ryan O'Reilly added two assists as Colorado (34-28-12) snapped a three-game losing streak a night after having its playoff hopes all but mathematically extinguished in a 4-3 defeat to the Edmonton Oilers.
"We are desperate, we know where the standings are and we would have to win out to give ourselves a chance," said Iginla. "But guys came into this game and we talked and said just try to win this game. Don't think about the big picture or what are the odds, just enjoy this game."
The Canucks, meanwhile, rarely tested Berra until an 18-shot barrage in the third period when it was too late and now sit just two points up on Los Angeles for second in the Pacific Division after the Kings defeated the New York Islanders earlier Thursday. Also nipping at Vancouver's heels are the Calgary Flames, who are just three points back in ninth.
"It's unacceptable. We knew how important this game was," said Canucks defenceman Luca Sbisa, whose team had won three in a row. "Every game going down the stretch is going to be like a playoff game. Not showing up tonight is not acceptable. It's pretty much like our 'B' team showed up."
John Mitchell added a late empty-net goal for Colorado as Berra picked up his first win since Nov. 6 in his first start since Nov. 25.
"I just wanted to prove to myself and the whole team and everybody that I can just play in this league," said Berra.
Yannick Weber scored his third goal in as many games for Vancouver (43-27-4), which played one of its worst stretches of the season in the first 40 minutes.
"There's quite a bit that went wrong (in the first two periods)," said Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins. "They played real desperate and we didn't have that level of intensity."
Despite losing a night earlier, the Avalanche dominated play in the first, carrying an 18-5 shot edge through 20 minutes, and kept that pressure up in the second.
Colorado opened the scoring at the end of a dominant shift at 3:23 when Landeskog's shot deflected in off Iginla after the Avalanche captain wheeled around the Canucks' zone with impunity. The 37-year-old Iginla's 26th goal of the season moved him into a tie with Montreal Canadiens great Jean Beliveau for 40th on the all-time points list.
The Canucks, who wore their retro Vancouver Millionaires jerseys in honour of the 100th anniversary of that team's Stanley Cup victory, then went down 2-0 after an embarrassing gaffe by Chris Higgins. The forward turned the puck over as the last man, and Landeskog moved in on Lack, who made a great glove save, only to see Tanguay bat home a rebound off the end boards moments later at 10:17 for his 22nd.
The Avalanche kept coming and put the game completely out of reach on the power play at 12:56, with Landeskog burying what was also his 22nd of the season.
Weber got one back for the Canucks just 15 seconds into the third on a man advantage with his ninth, but that was as close as the hosts would come before Mitchell added his ninth of the season into an empty net.
"This team has showed enough character and perseverance that we are not going to quit," said Landeskog. "It doesn't matter where we are in the standings. We play for pride and we play for each other and we play for the crest on our jersey."
Notes: O'Reilly extended his point streak to six games (four goals, seven assists). ... Weber has five points (three goals, two assists) over the last four.