VANCOUVER – Daniel Sedin helped the Vancouver Canucks clinch their fifth straight Northwest Division title in style Monday night.
Sedin scored a breakaway goal and added an assist on the winner as the Canucks posted a 3-1 victory over the NHL-leading Chicago Blackhawks.
In the process, the Swede moved into second place on the Canucks’ all-time scoring list with 758 points. Twin brother Henrik Sedin recorded two assists on the night and now has 791 career points for Vancouver.
Fans at Rogers Arena recognized Daniel Sedin’s accomplishment with a standing ovation.
“It was a little surprising—second place, I don’t know how big a deal that is,” he said with a laugh. “But it was nice for both me and Henrik. It’s a big thing for us.”
A bigger thing was the division title.
Vancouver’s eighth straight victory at Rogers Arena guaranteed the Canucks (26-13-7) home-ice advantage in at least the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“If we play like we did today I think we’re good,” said Daniel Sedin. “It hasn’t looked like that all the games, but this was one of the more complete games. We’ve been battling through a lot this year but tonight was a step in the right direction.”
The NHL-leading Blackhawks (34-6-5) made clinching first place overall a bit more difficult for themselves as they suffered their second straight loss.
“We got outworked,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. “They played hard. It was one of those games where they had the playoff intensity—and we didn’t respond.”
Jannik Hansen and Zack Kassian, with the winner, also scored for the Canucks, who have distanced themselves from the slumping Minnesota Wild in the past few weeks. Cory Schneider made 24 saves to get the win.
Henrik Sedin said the performance was his team’s best of the season.
“We got everyone back, rolling the lines,” he said. “There was no hesitation, the (defence) was pinching, the forwards were covering for them—easy breakouts, just overall a good feeling.”
Daniel Carcillo replied for Chicago, which got 29 saves from Cory Crawford and trailed 1-0 after the first period and 3-0 after the second.
“It’s always nice to beat the best team in the NHL, but our second goal every year after making the playoffs is to clinch the division title,” said Schneider. “It speaks to the success this team has had in the past five, six years of winning titles and stuff like this.
“We’ll enjoy this for about 10 minutes and then worry about the (Anaheim) Ducks coming to town (Thursday).”
The Blackhawks are trying to win their first President’s Trophy since 1991, when Mike Keenan was the coach. Chicago has 73 points with three games remaining, while Pittsburgh has 70 points with three games also left on its schedule.
After Hansen opened the scoring on a power play in the first period, Kassian deposited Daniel Sedin’s pass from behind the net midway through the second.
The goal ended Kassian’s scoring drought at eight games dating to April 4 against Edmonton.
Daniel Sedin put the Canucks ahead 3-0 in the final minute of the period after taking a long pass off the boards from his brother to score on a breakaway.
While the Sedins displayed their usual artistry, the Canucks also delivered a gritty effort, outhitting Chicago 37-23.
“The Hawks and Canucks are always a challenging game, and tonight was no different,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “It was a hard fought game.”
Schneider kept his shutout bid alive in the third by stopping Chicago rookie Brandon Saad on a short-handed breakaway, but the Canucks goaltender lost it at 11:50 of third on a fluke play.
Vancouver winger Tom Sestito tried to rim the puck around the end boards, but it hit referee Tom Kowal’s skate and caromed right in front of the net to Carcillo, who fired a backhand for his second goal of the season.
“Those are the breaks,” said Schneider. “If you look and how well we played defensively, I wasn’t required to do a whole lot, so I can take that as a bigger picture instead of giving up the goal. It’s going to happen.”
Schneider recorded his 17th win while continuing to excel following a 33-save effort in a victory over Detroit on Saturday. Aside from a 5-1 loss in Dallas last Thursday, he has excelled in recent weeks, raising his level to where Canucks management wanted it after anointing him the starter ahead of Roberto Luongo.
“It’s a bit of a half season, so maybe it’s a dress rehearsal,” said Schneider of his play. “A lot of people doubted our group this year and how we played, but here we are at the end of the year with another division title. So we’re doing something right.”
The Canucks play their final home game Thursday against Anaheim before closing out the regular season in Edmonton on Saturday.
The Blackhawks will try to secure top spot overall as they finish the campaign with games Wednesday in Edmonton, Saturday at home against Calgary and Sunday in St. Louis.
Notes: Canucks winger Chris Higgins had a strong return to the lineup after missing six games with a knee injury. … Vancouver was 1-for-5 on the power play, while Chicago was scoreless on two chances. … Canucks defenceman Frank Corrado, 20, made his NHL debut after being called up earlier in the day from Chicago of the AHL. Corrado spent most of this season in junior with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves and Kitchener Rangers. Vigneault showed confidence by starting him in the top defensive pair with Alex Edler. … Chicago winger Patrick Sharp and defenceman Michal Rozsival sat out with undisclosed upper-body injuries, while centre Michal Handzus was sidelined with an undisclosed injury. … Chicago goaltender Ray Emery dressed as Crawford’s backup after missing two games with a lower-body injury. … The Canucks recorded their 430th consecutive sellout.