VANCOUVER, B.C. – Goalie Andrew Raycroft found there’s nothing better than a shutout to erase the memory of a bad outing the previous game.
Raycroft stopped all 18 shots he faced Sunday to backstop the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-0 victory over Northwest Division-leading Colorado Avalanche in his home debut. The flawless performance came after he gave up four goals on 22 shots before being lifted for backup Cory Schneider in a 7-2 loss Friday to the Anaheim Ducks.
“I feel a lot better,” Raycroft said following his third consecutive start after No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo was sidelined by a hairline rib fracture.
“I felt good the other night. I just kind of lost focus on a couple but tonight I stayed focused all night.
“That was a big win for us. We didn’t play our best the other night. Three (games) in four (nights), travel and everything else.”
Vancouver, with five other regulars out with injuries, improved to 8-7 with the win and moved into seventh place in the Western Conference.
The Avalanche, who lead the conference, have lost two consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season to slip to 10-3-2.
Colorado looked tired in the finale of a four-game road trip and didn’t put much pressure on Raycroft, who made 31 appearances for the Avalanche last season before signing with Vancouver.
Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson, who began the night leading the NHL in games played, wins, saves and save percentage, struggled to control rebounds as the Canucks crashed his crease.
“He’s a big reason for their success,” said Mason Raymond, who opened the scoring on Vancouver’s third shot by shovelling home the rebound of an Alex Edler shot.
“We wanted to get to him and get those second and third opportunities and whack them home.”
That’s what Ryan Kesler did in the second period when Anderson stopped Sami Salo’s point shot but left the puck uncovered in his crease.
“When the (defence) had the puck we tried to get in front of him and make his job hard tonight,” said Kesler, who matched linemate Raymond with his fifth goal of the season. “He’s human back there and we got to him early and often.
“I thought we played well tonight, especially in the physical department. I thought we outmuscled them all over the ice and dominated them.”
Tanner Glass completed the scoring in the third period. Anderson stopped the original shot, but the rebound deflected in off the skate of Colorado defenceman Scott Hannan.
Raycroft, who got his first shutout since blanking the Sabres in Buffalo nearly two years ago as a Toronto Maple Leaf, had to be a little lucky as Ryan O’Reilly and Philippe Dupuis hit posts in the third period.
But he was steady in the first period, squaring up to deny Dupuis after an early defensive giveaway and stop Paul Stastny after Vancouver took the lead.
“The strong part of our game right now is, obviously, our defence group,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault, whose injury-riddled club lost rookie Michael Grabner to an ankle injury in the pre-game warm-up.
“Andrew has proven that he can play in this league at a high level, and our guys have to play within our system right now. And I thought our guys did a real good job of that tonight.”
Veteran Colorado defenceman Adam Foote said the Canucks’ strategy was obvious.
“We knew they were going to throw a lot of pucks on the net and crash the net and we talked about it but they were able to get two goals off point shots and we have to be better for Andy on rebounds,” Foote said.
“They capitalized on two of them and it seemed like it took us more than half the game to get into it.”
Anderson said he’ll have to work on his rebound control and try to give his team a chance to win when offence is at a premium.
“I can’t score goals but at the same time it’s a good opportunity for me to step up and throw a shutout and get this thing to overtime,” said Anderson, who has two shutouts while starting all 15 Avalanche games this season.
Notes: The Avalanche had 10 wins in October, most in that month in franchise history. … the Avs played 11 of their first 15 games away from Denver. … Grabner joins Canuck forwards Jannik Hansen, Pavol Demitra, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Johnson on the injured list. Kyle Wellwood (toe) returned to the lineup. … the Avalanche were missing forwards T.J. Galiardi, Matt Hendricks, Cody McLeod and Darcy Tucker along with defenceman Ruslan Salei.