VANCOUVER – Cory Schneider has filled in so well for star goaltender Roberto Luongo that Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault might not send him back to the bench any time soon.
Schneider continued his stellar play Tuesday night, making 47 saves as Vancouver beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1.
He posted his fifth straight victory since starting in place of the injured Luongo, who is now back to full health and watching from the 25-year-old Marblehead, Mass., native’s usual well-warmed spot on the bench.
“I haven’t played this many games (consecutively) at the NHL level,” said Schneider who has been used sparingly during most of his two seasons with the Canucks after starting in the minors. “It’s been a little while, but once you get into that rhythm, it’s something you don’t really forget.”
Schneider posted his fifth straight victory. He has allowed four goals over that span while posting two shutouts.
The Canucks (14-9-1) recorded their fifth straight win while the Blue Jackets (6-15-3) suffered their second loss in three outings.
Daniel Sedin, David Booth, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, into an empty net in the final minute, scored for Vancouver. Samuel Pahlsson replied for the Blue Jackets.
The lopsided Vancouver win belied the fact Columbus outshot the Canucks 48-34. The Blue Jackets were blanked on three power-play chances while the Canucks were denied on two.
“You almost don’t even think about it,” said Schneider of his roll. “It just kind of happens and you’re seeing the puck well and you’re moving and you’re anticipating.
“The other times, they go in where nothing makes sense and you’re just questioning yourself, and there are times when everything makes sense and you just seem to know the answer ahead of time. So this is one of those runs and you just try to maintain that level.”
Vancouver led 2-0 after the first period and a scoreless second. However, Columbus could not get any closer in the third, despite outshooting the Canucks 22-12. Vigneault said Schneider has been the Canucks’ best player lately, but he was not happy with the effort of his skaters.
“They say never critique a win, but obviously giving up 22 shots in the third period was not exactly part of the overall plan,” Vigneault said. “They came at us, but Cory stood his ground and was again the best player on the ice tonight.”
Schneider won a battle of present and former Canuck backups. Blue Jackets goaltender Curtis Sanford, who spent two seasons with Vancouver, also excelled as he made some stellar stops while recording 30 saves, but caught some bad breaks.
“It was almost like (Schneider) was made of Velcro,” said Sanford. “He was just sucking everything in, wasn’t giving us (many) second opportunities, and when we did get them, he was square.”
Sanford played alongside Schneider with Manitoba of the AHL in 2008-09. He said Schneider is taking advantage of his rare opportunity to start several games in place of Luongo.
“He’s a No. 1 goalie in this league,” Sanford said. “He’s got the ball right now, he’s running with it, and it’s no surprise. It’s a little wild looking over at the bench and seeing Roberto over there.”
Sanford started his first game in Vancouver since Jan. 13, 2009, when he was a member of the Canucks. He had not played in the NHL since the 2008-09 season before signing with the Blue Jackets in the summer.
The Canucks let him go after he struggled while filling in for an injured Luongo during an extended stretch and was demoted to the minors after Vancouver acquired Jason LaBarbera.
Sedin opened the scoring 3:19 into the game after Alex Edler’s point shot hit his skate, and the Swede was left with a gaping net as Sandford was moving to stop the slapshot that never arrived.
Booth put Vancouver ahead 2-0 at 17:42 of the first, poking the puck past Sanford after a Dan Hamhuis pass from the far corner grazed teammate Chris Higgins and then hit Columbus defenceman Fedor Tyutin’s skate. The goal was Booth’s second in three games after he struggled following an early-season trade from Florida.
“It was a huge change in my life, something I’d never been through,” said Booth. “Coming in I was excited for it and I guess I want to do, maybe, a little too much. Now, I really understand that my game’s simple. Just play fast, play in the corners and take pucks to the net.”
Pahlsson’s first goal of the season cut Vancouver’s lead to 2-1 early in the third period as whipped in a rebound while Columbus was short handed. But Kesler replied 1:28 later, roofing a slapshot from the face-off circle after Burrows faked a shot, freezing Sanford, and then passed. The goal, which came just four seconds after a Vancouver power play expired, was the third goal in four games for Kesler, who had struggled following off-season hip surgery that forced him to miss all of training camp and the pre-season. A traditionally streaky scorer, he now has points in five straight games.
“It’s nice,” Kesler said. “Obviously, I’m a firm believer in sticking with the game plan.”
Notes: Vancouver defenceman Aaron Rome remained out with a hand injury while winger Andrew Ebbett missed his eighth game due to a fractured foot.…Blue Jackets winger Vinny Prospal needs one more point for 700 in his career.…Canucks defenceman Sami Salo,37, assisted on Sedin’s goal and is on pace for a career-high 48 points. But he hurt his groin early in the third period and did not return.