VANCOUVER – Alain Vigneault decided star goaltender Roberto Luongo needed a break, and Cory Schneider made sure his coach didn’t regret his choice.
Schneider made 32 saves for his first NHL win in almost two years as the Vancouver Canucks downed the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 Sunday.
Schneider last won in a Canucks uniform on Dec. 14, 2008. The 24-year-old native of Marblehead, Mass., is his first season of full-time NHL duty after three seasons in the minors.
“When you get one (win) a year, it’s tough to pile them up,” Schneider said. “It’s great. It’s a good feeling. I thought we played a good team game–something we’ve been looking for all season.”
Mason Raymond scored two goals and added an assist while Mikael Samuelsson had a goal and two helpers as the Canucks (2-2-1) got back on the winning track after a pair of losses in Los Angeles and Anaheim.
Andrew Alberts, in his first game against his former team, and Ryan Kesler also scored for Vancouver.
Patrick O’Sullivan replied for Carolina (2-2-0).
Schneider made his first start as No. 1 Luongo received the night off after playing four straight games to start the season. The Canucks lost three of them.
The backup has set out this season to prove that he can fill in for Luongo, who is expected to rest more often than he has in the past.
Carolina suffered the lopsided loss despite outshooting the Canucks 33-28, though Schneider felt the statistic was deceiving as the Hurricanes took many from the outside.
The win was important for his confidence as the Canucks, who have gone through several backups in recent seasons, place more emphasis on the role this season.
“Part of my job is to be a viable option,” Schneider said. “If I can’t get the job done, then they’ve got no choice but to play Roberto lots. Part of my job is to show I’m capable of handling 20 games and allowing (the coach) to give Roberto a rest when he needs it.”
“(Schneider) did a real good job for us,” Vigneault said. “He was real solid in goal, real smooth and made the right saves at the right time and gave us a chance to win.”
Offensively, Raymond, Samuelsson and Kesler all broke out of season-opening scoring slumps.
“We feel like we’ve been snake-bitten, but that’s the past,” Raymond said. “We’re played well tonight. We did the things that make us successful.”
Raymond scored his goals after moving up to Vancouver’s top line with twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin in place of Alex Burrows, who is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.
“It felt good,” said Raymond, who had an unsuccessful stint as a rookie with the Sedins. “It’s hard to fill Alex Burrows’ shoes, but things went well and we made some good plays.”
Meanwhile, Samuelsson managed to produce a three-point night after being taken off the Sedins’ line.
Samuelsson raced out of the penalty box in time to convert a Tanner Glass goalmouth pass at 9:38 of the second, giving Vancouver a 3-0 lead. The goal came only seven seconds after an interference penalty to Samuelsson had expired.
“There was nothing going my way so far…Tonight, (there was) a little bit,” Samuelsson said.
The Hurricanes have not been home since playing an Oct. 1 exhibition game against Atlanta in Raleigh, N.C. They played another exhibition game against SKA St. Petersburg in Russia, two regular-season games against Minnesota in Helsinki, and then embarked on their current five-game road trip.
With three games remaining on the trek, they will have travelled approximately 15,000 kilometres through four countries before playing their home opener against Washington on Oct. 27. But coach Paul Maurice refused to use the extensive travel as an excuse.
“I don’t know any answer to it,” said Maurice. “I just know that it doesn’t matter, because it’s not going to change. We’re not going home (yet) with three more on this road trip, and we can’t make any excuses.”
Carolina defenceman Joe Corvo said the lengthy road trip was affecting his play.
“It’s pretty ridiculous,” said Corvo, who added he was starting to feel sluggish. “But whatever you got to do to make money.”
The Canucks peppered Carolina goaltender Cam Ward with 10 shots in the first eight minutes while Schneider faced only five in the same time span but still had to make two difficult stops on Erik Cole.
“We didn’t start the way we expected our team to start,” said Maurice. “Our compete level wasn’t high enough. That carried on throughout the game. We got better, but they sat back a bit after they got the lead.”
The Canucks went 2-for-5 on the power play while the Hurricanes were blanked on six man-advantage opportunities.
NOTES: The Sedins extended their season-opening points streak to five games. Henrik provided two assists while Daniel furnished one…Vancouver defenceman Keith Ballard sat out with Vigneault has described as a slight concussion, suffered in the first period of Friday’s game in Los Angeles…Henrik Sedin played in his 422nd consecutive game. He is six games shy of current NHL ironman Jay Bouwmeester of the Calgary Flames…Vigneault needs one more game for 600 in his NHL career…Sunday’s game was the lone contest between Carolina and Vancouver this season.