DENVER – The Canucks are playing some of their best hockey when it matters the most—during the stretch run. And the Northwest Division-leading Vancouver is doing it behind the play of goaltender Cory Schneider.
“It is amazing to see the way he has been playing the last four games,” Vancouver winger Mason Raymond said. “The way Schneids has been seeing the puck has been huge for our club.”
Raymond and Alexandre Burrows scored in the second period and Vancouver moved into sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division with a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night.
Schneider came up big again against Colorado, making 26 saves in his fourth consecutive start.
“I have been playing my best hockey and winning is the best part of the game,” said Schneider, who improved to 5-0-1 with two shutouts against the Avalanche. “But it doesn’t come without doing extra work and without your teammates in front of you blocking the shots.”
Jason Garrison added a goal for the Canucks, winners of four straight. Vancouver moved ahead of idle Minnesota by two points for the conference lead.
“It’s just phenomenal how these guys in this stretch of five games in seven nights continue to pay the price,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said of the banged-up Canucks. “They’ve done everything they’re supposed to do to give themselves a chance to win.
“They competed real hard, they blocked shots, they took hits to make plays.”
Jamie McGinn and PA Parenteau scored for free-falling Colorado, which has dropped six of seven.
Jean-Sebastian Giguere made his first start since March 5 in Detroit and allowed three goals on 30 shots. Giguere is 9-11-4 against Vancouver.
“I thought we played hard tonight and I was proud of our resiliency right up until the very end,” Colorado coach Joe Sacco said, “unfortunately, we came up short at the end.”
The Avalanche have dropped the last nine meetings between the teams. Colorado hasn’t beaten the Canucks since Jan. 18, 2011, when it won 4-3 in overtime.
The Canucks missed a couple of open nets early, but didn’t miss when Shane O’Brien when off for interference with 15:07 of the first period. Garrison’s slap shot from the deep slot 9 seconds later got past the Giguere’s left pad.
McGinn answered for Colorado off a 2-on-1 break at 9:18 of the period. Parenteau slid a pass under the stick of Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieska to McGinn, who beat Schneider to his stick side.
McGinn hit the right post late in the period.
Schneider kept Colorado at bay, making 10 stops in the second period. Raymond and Burrows took care of business at the offensive end as the Canucks pulled ahead 3-1.
Jordan Schroeder gained control of the puck after Schneider stopped a shot and pushed the puck ahead to Raymond. He blew past Erik Johnson and flipped a wrist shot by the right elbow of Giguere at 3:13.
Andrew Ebbett skated down the puck into the corner and set up Burrows in the lower right circle. Burrows beat Giguere at 14:29 with a wrister short side.
Schneider escaped danger in the opening moments of the third period when Matt Duchene fanned on a shot in front of Schneider, who was down on the play.
Parenteau scored on a 5-on-3 power play with 2:31 left.
Schneider made two saves in the final minute after Colorado pulled Giguere.
“Confidence is a big deal in this game and we don’t have that right now,” Parenteau said. “We get deflated when we get in a hole and that’s what happened tonight.”
NOTES: Vancouver centre Henrik Sedin played in his 613th consecutive game, second longest active streak, second only to Calgary’s Jay Bouwmeester who played in his 618th straight. … The Canucks are 3-0-0 on the current road trip and are 8-4-0 on the second night of back-to-backs. … Paul Stastny didn’t return for the second period after suffering a lower leg injury in the first. … Parenteau had a goal and an assist on his 30th birthday.