VANCOUVER – Cory Schneider did not lack for work as he returned to the Vancouver Canucks’ net for the first time in five games Tuesday night.
The Canucks goaltender recorded 32 saves as Vancouver held on for a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. He helped the Canucks regain a share of the Northwest Division lead with Minnesota one night after they lost to the Wild.
The Blues outshot the Canucks 34-19 as Vancouver managed only a total of five shots in the first and third periods.
“It was good to see a couple shots early and get into it and not just be standing around for 10 minutes,” said Schneider. “I have been working hard and feel I have been ready to make this start—and I needed a win.
“It’s been a while for me.”
Schneider posted a victory for the first time since March 2 against Los Angeles while improving his record to a modest 7-5-3. He was ticketed as Vancouver’s No. 1 goalie this season after displacing Roberto Luongo in last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
But the two goaltenders have shared the duties after the Canucks did not trade Luongo in the off-season as expected.
After being badly outshot in the first period, the Canucks came alive in the second period and scored three unanswered goals but were outplayed in the third.
“You need great goaltending to win in this league,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “We were looking for our legs and our hands in the first period, and he permitted us to find them and be real good in the second.”
Daniel Sedin led the Canucks with a goal and an assist. Jannik Hansen and Dale Weise also scored for Vancouver (14-9-6), which ended a two-game slide.
“Our goalie was hands down the best player on the ice tonight,” said Weise. “He made some absolutely huge saves to bale some guys out, including myself, and you can’t say enough good things about him tonight.”
Jaden Schwartz and Patrik Berglund both scored in the third period for the Blues (16-11-2), who suffered only their second loss in seven games.
St. Louis had won three straight with rookie goaltender Jake Allen between the pipes, but the Canucks managed to solve him long enough in the second period. Allen finished with 16 saves.
“We played a good 40 minutes, but the other 20 minutes cost us the game,” said Berglund.
The Blues enjoyed a whopping 15-3 edge in shots in the opening period. Then after being outshot 14-6 in the second, the Blues held a 13-2 advantage in the third.
“Our coaches weren’t happy, obviously, with the second when they came back in (the dressing room),” said Blues winger David Perron. “I think we responded the right way. But when you’re down three goals there, it’s a tough league to come back in, and there was just not enough there.”
Perron said the Blues did not take the Canucks lightly in the second period.
“We know they’re a good team,” said Perron. “I don’t know what happened, but it’s something we’ll have to talk about in here, in the room, and move on to the next game in Edmonton.”
Schneider started in goal for Vancouver after watching the previous four games from the bench. Even with the two against in the third period, which both resulted from timely bounces in the Blues’ favour, he faced his most serious tests in the opening 20 minutes.
He made memorable saves on Perron from left wing and Alex Pietrangelo from the right point almost in succession. After retrieving his own rebound, Perron sent the puck to Pietrangelo.
Later in the period, the Canucks goaltender robbed Pietrangelo from short range with his glove and foiled Andy McDonald, who returned to the Blues lineup after missing 10 games with a knee injury, on a rebound in front of the net.
After Hansen and Daniel Sedin scored less than two minutes apart in the second period, Weise, known for fisticuffs rather than scoring dexterity, netted the winner on a nifty play midway through the middle frame. He took a spin-around forehand pass from Jordan Schroeder and then deked Allen while skating across the goalmouth.
It was Weise’s first goal in 11 games and just his second of the season.
“We were on the same page (in the second period),” said Daniel Sedin. “First period, we were so spread out, and talked about it in the intermission and got things under control.
The Blues got on the scoreboard just over five minutes into the third period as Vladimir Tarasenko’s shot bounced in off Schwartz, reducing their deficit to 3-1.
Berglund pulled St. Louis within a goal at 13:38 of the third as Kris Russell’s shot bounced to him off the back of Canuck defenceman Chris Tanev’s head. Tanev left the game and did not return, but coach Alain Vigneault said afterwards that he though Tanev would be fine.
“Give the guys credit,” said Schneider. “They played a great second, and in the third we hunkered down a bit.”
The Canucks ended their four-game homestand with a 2-2 mark, sandwiching their wins around a pair of losses.
“There were some pretty good chances (for St. Louis in the third period), but both their goals (were) just sort of flukey bounces and they are in,” said Schneider. “That seems to be happening lately, but we overcame it—and got an important win at home.”
The game was Vancouver’s second of five in seven days. The Canucks visit Phoenix on Thursday, L.A. on Saturday and Colorado on Sunday.
Notes: St. Louis was blanked on three power plays, while the Canucks were unsuccessful on two. … The Canucks lost winger Zack Kassian to an injury in the first period. He had returned to Vancouver’s lineup after missing the previous two games with a sore back. Before the game was three minutes old, he fought St. Louis winger Chris Stewart, the NHL’s first star of the week. … Vancouver forward Andrew Ebbett was scratched, while David Booth remains out indefinitely with with a leg injury. The team has not identified the specific problem. Vigneault said Kassian “re-aggravated” his recurring back problem. Kassian declined comment. … Stewart played his 300th NHL game. … Blues winger T.J. Oshie missed his third consecutive game with a rib injury. He is expected to return to the lineup Saturday in Edmonton.