Chris Higgins and Cory Schneider stepped up and led Vancouver to a milestone win on a night when most of the Canucks were not at their best.
Higgins had a two goals and an assist and the Canucks, despite being outshot and outchanced, beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 on Sunday to reach 50 victories for the first time in their 40-year history.
Schneider, starting in place of Roberto Luongo, made 39 saves to improve to 15-3-2 and help the NHL-leading Canucks add to their franchise-best points total (109) and run their road winning streak to eight, matching the club record set in early 2004.
“Teams are obviously getting themselves prepared for us,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “I thought Columbus, tonight, played real strong. At the end of the night, our goaltender was better than their goaltender and we won the game.”
Christian Ehrhoff and Henrik Sedin also scored for Vancouver. Mason Raymond added three assists and Ryan Kesler had two. The Canucks have won 10-of-11 overall and seven in a row against Columbus.
“There’s going to be games like this during the season when you’re not feeling your best,” Sedin said. “I think tonight we had 20 guys that weren’t at their best.”
Elsewhere in the NHL it was: Atlanta 5 Ottawa 4 (SO); Pittsburgh 2 Florida 1 (SO); and Boston 2 Philadelphia 1.
At Columbus, R.J. Umberger scored for the Blue Jackets with just under 10 minutes remaining to spoil Schneider’s shutout bid.
“We just couldn’t score, couldn’t bury it,” Umberger said. “We peppered them with shots from everywhere. We had a lot of rebounds. It’s frustrating when you get those chances and don’t score.”
Ehrhoff opened the scoring at 7:52 of the first period. After a turnover by Antoine Vermette, Raymond fed an open Ehrhoff at the right circle and he snapped a shot past Mathieu Garon, who finished with 20 saves.
Columbus was pressing for the equalizer in the second period and carried the play, outshooting the Canucks 25-12 after two periods. They couldn’t beat Schneider who was quick to snuff out second chances.
Vancouver scored twice early in the third to pull away.
“(We were) just trying to hunker down a little bit,” said Higgins, who scored his first goals as a Canuck since being acquired at the trade deadline. “They were taking the game to us and we just wanted to flip the script a little bit and play a much tighter third period.”
With the NHL’s best power play at work, Kesler fed Sedin alone in front for a backhand flick past Garon for his 19th at 3:36.
After Columbus failed to generate a dangerous scoring chance on a 1:05 two-man advantage, Higgins made it 3-0 with the Blue Jackets once again nowhere near the goal scorer. On the rush, Kesler slotted a long pass from the right wing to Higgins at the lower-left circle and he snapped the puck home at 9:03.
Two minutes later, Umberger charged down the left wing and snapped a hard shot on goal.
“I was leaning a little bit,” Schneider said. “I wasn’t sure if he was going to throw it out front. It hit me, hit the post, hit my head and crossed the line by an inch. I got some breaks during the game. Pucks just missed some sticks and the net. It comes back to get you.”
Again alone near the crease, Higgins closed out the scoring with his 13th of the season for another Vancouver power-play goal.
At Atlanta, Andrew Ladd scored the deciding shootout goal and Blake Wheeler and Ben Maxwell each had a goal and an assist for the Thrashers, nine behind eighth-place Buffalo for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
At Pittsburgh, Alex Kovalev and James Neal scored in the shootout, Marc-Andre Fleury made 37 saves and the Penguins set an NHL record by winning via shootout for the fourth consecutive game, beating Florida.
At Philadelphia, Brad Marchand scored a power-play goal with 3:43 left in regulation, and Nathan Horton also scored to help Northeast Division-leading Boston clinch a playoff spot.