On a night when Vancouver’s top line combined for eight points, it was their goaltender who stole the show.
Cory Schneider made 36 saves — many of the highlight-reel variety — as the Canucks defeated the reeling Calgary Flames 5-2 on Saturday to move four points ahead of the idle Minnesota Wild for first place in the Northwest Division.
Making his 10th straight start, eight of which have been victories, Schneider has firmly grasped the No. 1 role over Roberto Luongo the past three weeks.
“Tonight our best player was our goaltender,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “He made some unreal saves. They came to play and they came at us real hard. They had some quality chances, but Schneids shut the door and we were able to jump on a few of their mistakes and score some goals.”
Schneider’s saves were not only beautiful — like his lightning-quick glove stop off Lee Stempniak early in the third period — but timely as well. Schneider was at his best with the Canucks clinging to a 2-1 lead late in the first period and early in the second, as he robbed Roman Cervenka and Mike Cammalleri on in-close chances.
“They had some good chances, but that’s why you have a goalie,” said Schneider, who improved to 14-7-3. “That’s why you pay a guy to stop pucks, so if there are a lot of shots he’s there to stop them. Sometimes it might be 20, sometimes it might be 40. But either way your job doesn’t change.”
Schneider’s strong play allowed his teammates to find their game, particularly Vancouver’s top line.
Henrik Sedin scored an empty-netter and earned assists No. 600 and 601 of his career, Daniel Sedin added three assists and Alex Burrows scored and added an assist.
Dan Hamhuis, Dale Weise and Alex Edler had goals for Vancouver (21-11-6) as well.
Dennis Wideman and Alex Tanguay replied for Calgary (13-20-4), which has lost five straight games overall and 13 consecutive road games (0-12-1). The Flames, who lost 2-1 in San Jose on Friday, sit 14th in the 15-team Western Conference.
“We played really hard I think the last two games and done a lot of good things, but we make a few mistakes and teams bury us and all of a sudden we’re chasing games and it’s hard,” said Stempniak. “You can’t fault our effort or how competitive we are, but it’s not enough at the end of the day.”
With a chance to build on Thursday’s 4-0 victory over Edmonton, the Canucks jumped on Calgary early.
Hamhuis got Vancouver on the board 34 seconds into the game, converting a pretty Burrows feed on a 2-on-1 after Flames defenceman Mark Giordano got caught up ice.
Weise made it 2-0 six minutes later, parking himself in front of Miikka Kiprusoff and deflecting Jason Garrison’s point shot for his third of the season.
It was Weise’s first game back after missing six contests with a shoulder injury.
The goal was the Canucks’ second on their first five shots, drawing jeers of “Kipper, Kipper” from the sellout crowd of 18,910.
Wideman got Calgary within one at 13:49 of the first, faking a slap shot from the right circle, instead firing a soft wrist shot that fooled Schneider.
“He kind of pump faked and slipped it by me,” said Schneider. “I’m not thrilled with that one but it was a pretty crafty play by him. You don’t see that too often.”
The Canucks found their legs again midway through the second period, and added a pair of goals to make it 4-1 heading into the third.
After some pretty passing from the Sedin twins, Burrows parked himself in front and jammed the rebound from Daniel Sedin’s wraparound between Kiprusoff’s legs. It was Henrik Sedin’s 600th assist in his 930th game.
Henrik quipped that he doesn’t remember all of his helpers, “but I think most of them were to Burr and Danny.”
It didn’t take long for him to earn assist No. 601.
On a power play late in the second period, Edler whipped a one-timer from the point behind a screened Kiprusoff after Henrik Sedin won the draw.
Henrik’s two points give him 782 in his career, moving him into 154th on the NHL’s all-time points list, one ahead of Alexei Yashin and four behind Claude Lemieux.
“Great player,” said Vigneault. “He’s a great passer. Without a doubt him and his brother have something real good going, and Burr complements them real well. Henrik’s our captain, he’s a great player. I’m real happy for him.”
The Flames had a strong third period, but Tanguay was the only one to beat Schneider.
The veteran left-winger moved in on a breakaway midway through the period and beat Schneider with a pretty backhand deke between the legs.
Henrik Sedin scored his 11th goal of the season with 11 seconds remaining, putting the puck into an empty net. The goal was Vancouver’s first short-handed goal of the season.
NOTES: Alain Vigneault coached his 530th game for the Canucks, surpassing Marc Crawford for the franchise record. a Tim Jackman fought Zack Kassian early in the first period, and Brian McGrattan and Tom Sestito dropped the gloves 27 seconds later to fire up the crowd. a McGrattan later left the game with an unrelated shoulder injury and did not return. a Vancouver defenceman Chris Tanev left the game for a few minutes in the first period with what appeared to be a knee injury, but he returned and finished the game. Tanev is one of the only Vancouver defencemen who can play the right side comfortably.Report Typo/Error