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Canadian Press
1/31/2007 1:15:04 AM


VANCOUVER (CP) - Nikolai Zherdev scored the shootout winner Tuesday to give the rapidly improving Columbus Blue Jackets a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, extending their winning streak to four games.

The loss allowed the Calgary Flames to tie the Canucks for first place in the tight Northwest Division.

Zherdev fired over the glove hand of goalie Roberto Luongo to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 decision in the shootout. David Vyborny faked Luongo to the ice and scored on the forehand.

Brendan Morrison scored his fifth shootout goal in six attempts for the Canucks.

Anson Carter and Dan Fritsche scored for Columbus in regulation time, while Daniel Sedin and Sami Salo replied for Vancouver.

The Jackets, winners of five of their last six games, have consecutive victories against Buffalo, Detroit, Minnesota and the Canucks - all teams currently in playoff position.

Columbus, 16-12-3 since Ken Hitchcock took over as coach from the fired Gerard Gallant, are only four games under .500 at 21-25-5.

Vancouver lost for the third time in four games, slipping to 28-19-4.

However, the Canucks have been beaten only twice in regulation time in their last 15 games, a stretch that began after a 3-2 loss Dec. 22 in Columbus and includes 11 victories.

Outshot in their previous 13 games, the Canucks held a 37-28 shot advantage this time, with their best chances coming in the overtime period.

Markus Naslund stickhandled the puck into the crease, but defender Ron Hainsey fell on it. And Daniel Sedin had a close-in chance, but the puck deflected over the net.

The Canucks twice connected on the power play to overcome one-goal deficits and enter the third period tied 2-2 on Salo's only goal of the middle frame. Taylor Pyatt was screening in front when Salo fired from the blue-line, beating Ty Conklin, Columbus's third-string goalie, who got the start when backup Fredrik Norrena suffered a groin pull with No. 1 Pascal Leclaire already out with a knee injury.

The Blue Jackets scored twice on their first five shots, including the 200th of Carter's career, which came on the first shift of the game.

Alexander Svitov's centring pass hit defender Lukas Krajicek's stick and went right to Carter in the crease, who backhanded it behind Luongo.

It was the second goal in as many games for Carter, who had 33 last season with Vancouver.<

Daniel Sedin gave the Canucks an early tie on the power play when he deflected Krajicek's point shot.

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