VANCOUVER – Cory Schneider’s return to Vancouver started with a standing ovation.
It ended with his former team celebrating its third straight come-from-behind victory.
Jason Garrison scored at 2:18 of overtime Tuesday as the Canucks bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the winless New Jersey Devils 3-2 in Schneider’s first game against his former team.
Schneider, who was traded to New Jersey at June’s NHL draft in a deal that ended more than a year of goaltending drama involving himself and Roberto Luongo, was honoured with a video tribute just prior to the opening faceoff.
The fans at Rogers Arena saluted their former netminder with raucous applause.
“It was fun, a great environment, great atmosphere, really nice of them to show that screen at the start,” said Schneider, who finished with 29 saves. “It was a nice touch, but once the puck dropped we had our hands full, they are tough to play against.
“With Louie at the other end, you have to match him save for save because he’s not going to give you much.”
Luongo, who finished with 21 stops, said the game didn’t hold any extra meaning even though it was against his friend and former teammate.
“We got the win, so that’s what matters at the end of the day. I thought we both played really good games,” said Luongo, who shared a word with Schneider as the two stretched next to each other during the warmup. “Schneids kept them in it, made some big saves throughout the whole game. Somebody had to win.
“It was fun. Obviously we spent many years together so it was nice to battle it out head-to-head.”
Garrison’s winner, his third goal of the young season, came after he slid across the blue-line and fired a shot through traffic that beat Schneider. The puck appeared to go off Canucks centre Mike Santorelli, but the goal was still credited to the Vancouver defenceman.
Vancouver fell behind 1-0 against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday before securing a 6-2 victory, and followed that up with a 5-4 overtime win in Calgary after spotting the Flames a 3-1 lead on Sunday.
Canucks coach John Tortorella said the fact his team has three straight come-from-behind victories bodes well moving forward.
“Early on in the season, it’s good to happen that way. We’ll be in these situations and hopefully was can fall back on some of the positive things that are going on,” he said. “You don’t want to spot them a 2-0 lead but I appreciate how (the Canucks) just stay with it.
“There was no panic on our bench. We just started playing a little bit quicker and a little bit simpler.”
Daniel Sedin, with a goal and an assist, and Alexander Edler also scored for Vancouver (3-1-0).
Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias each had a goal and an assist for winless New Jersey (0-1-3), which was playing its second game in as many nights.
Schneider posted a 17-9-4 record with five shutouts, a 2.11 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage for Vancouver last season after supplanting Luongo as the starter under former coach Alain Vigneault.
The 27-year-old appeared to be the Canucks’ goaltender of the future until he was traded to the Devils after Vancouver was unable to move Luongo and his 12-year, $64-million contract.
Schneider is now sharing the crease in New Jersey with 41-year-old future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, who allowed four goals on 27 shots in Monday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Oilers.
Tied 2-2 after two periods on Tuesday, the teams didn’t generate much in the third until the midway mark when Luongo was forced to make saves off both Elias and Jagr.
“We had some chances, we had the lead again, so we have to stop playing bad with the lead,” said Jagr. “It’s not easy to get a lead in this league and we had it the last two games, 3-0 and 2-0 and we still get only two points together, so we should get more points than that.”
Leading 1-0 after the first, Schneider made big stops on David Booth and Kevin Bieksa before the Devils doubled their advantage at 7:25 on a strange play. New Jersey defenceman Anton Volchenkov threw the puck into the Canucks corner, but it took a deflection off the referee and fell to Elias, who fired a shot past Luongo that went in off Vancouver right-winger Dale Weise.
The Canucks responded at 8:51 on a shot from Sedin that deflected off Volchenkov’s skate and past Schneider. Vancouver then tied it up at 13:47 on Edler’s first of the season. With Devils left-winger Ryane Clowe hobbling to the bench, the Canucks defenceman found a seam and tucked a shot under the crossbar off a feed from Sedin.
The fans who had given Schneider a standing ovation in the first period started to jeer their former goalie after Vancouver’s second goal.
“Yeah, I’d like to think that came from a place of love but probably not,” said Schneider, who regrouped to stop Jannik Hansen on a breakaway with under five minutes to go to send the teams to the locker-rooms still knotted.
New Jersey opened the scoring with 68 seconds left in the first when Elias slid a cross-ice pass to Jagr, who one-time a shot past Luongo.
With all of the pre-game hype focusing on Schneider’s return to the scene of a goaltending soap opera that polarized fans in the city for more than a year, both he and Luongo stole the show early as both players made big saves before Jagr opened the scoring.
“It was fun playing against (Luongo), he’s a great goalie, I have always said that,” said Schneider. “I’ve learned a lot from him and he’s been put through a lot but his resiliency and how hard he’s worked through it.
“I think he deserves everything he gets. It was fun seeing him at the other end for the first time.”
Notes: Tuesday’s game marked the Devils’ first trip to Vancouver since Nov. 1, 2010. The Canucks were victorious that night, with Luongo making 30 saves for the shutout. … Calgary Flames president of hockey operation Brian Burke was in attendance. New Jersey visits Calgary on Friday night. … The Canucks continue their three-game homestand with a game against San Jose Sharks on Thursday. Vancouver then hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night before heading out on a seven-game road trip.
Follow Joshua Clipperton on Twitter at @josh_clipperton