VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- The Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche finished right where they started Thursday night.
Defenseman Ed Jovanovski scored on an end-to-end rush 6:02 into the third period to lift the Canucks into a 1-1 tie with the Avalanche.
The tie kept the teams knotted up atop the Northwest Division with 37 points, and one point behind Detroit for first in the Western Conference.
Billed as a battle between long-time division rivals and two of the NHL's top-scoring teams, it may have been the perfect ending to a game both teams thought was one of the most entertaining they've played this season.
"It was a hard-fought game, the top two teams battled hard to a tie and you feel good after the game," said Jovanovski, who tied it on an unassisted effort.
Jovanovski took the puck at the side of his own net with a four-minute Vancouver power play winding down and skated it right into the Colorado zone. He hesitated slightly at the right circle before firing a shot that handcuffed David Aebischer and went in under his glove just after the penalty to Dan Hinote expired.
"The ice was there so I just tried to take what was given," Jovanovski said. "I was just trying to get it to the net, kind of pulled up and shot it through a couple of guys."
After trading chances in the first period and settling down defensively in the second, Vancouver opened it up after Jovanovski's goal, firing 20 shots at David Aebischer in the third period.
"I have to stop that one, no question about it," said Aebischer, who was otherwise brilliant making 37 saves.
Aebischer, who took over as Colorado's top goalie after Patrick Roy retired this summer, robbed Todd Bertuzzi several times from point-blank range. He also made a handful of stellar stops off Markus Naslund, and one off Magnus Arvedson on a partial break early in the third.
"I think he was the difference, Naslund said of Aebischer. "He made some great saves, especially in the third coming across.
Rookie Alex Auld, a surprise starter after being recalled from Manitoba of the AHL on Tuesday, made 27 saves for the Canucks.
"We played good enough to take two points, but it s a good team over there, likewise with us, Bertuzzi said. "It s done the right way. You re not seeing much stick work or clutching or holding. You re seeing two good teams going at it.
Rob Blake scored early as Colorado extended its unbeaten streak to seven games.
"We were fortunate to get out of here with a point," Blake said.
"Playing against them is always fun," Colorado captain Joe Sakic said. "We'd like to have that third period back, but Abby gave us a point."
Blake opened the scoring 6:08 in. He stepped in front of Daniel Sedin at the top of the faceoff circle to intercept Marek Malik's pass from behind the net, walked in alone and snapped a wrist shot over Auld's glove.
The goal was Blake's third in four games, and the seventh straight time Vancouver surrendered the first goal at home.
Brad May appeared to tie it seven minutes later, but referee Paul Devorski waved the goal off because Vancouver forward Mike Keane bumped Aebischer as he cut into the crease. Keane, a former Avalanche, was penalized for goaltender interference.