ST. PAUL, Minn. – Cory Schneider’s emergence in goal for Vancouver has raised questions about whether stalwart Roberto Luongo will soon be traded.
For now, the Canucks can sure put both of them to good use.
Schneider made 22 saves and Mason Raymond had a power-play goal and an assist in the second period to lead Vancouver past the sputtering Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Thursday night, the fourth straight win for the Canucks.
“That’s what he’s always done for us. He’s always come in in these situations in the past,” said coach Alain Vigneault, who gave Schneider his first action in 11 days.
Daniel Sedin, Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen also had goals for the Canucks. Tom Gilbert spoiled the shutout on a power-play slap shot with 12:35 left for the Wild. Luongo has the league’s third-best goals-against average and played the last four games, but he has struggled at Minnesota in recent years. So Schneider got the assignment.
“It’s great knowing there’s another guy who can go in there and put up those kind of numbers, and it just motivates you to be that good and chase him,” Schneider said. “I’ve been doing it for a couple years now, and I think the team enjoys that, just knowing whoever’s in the net we can win.”
Niklas Backstrom gave up two scores in each of the first two periods for the Wild, and Josh Harding was in the net for the final frame. But they could only wish their problems were limited to the net.
“We definitely need these points and, yeah, it’s tough to come back in this league, especially when you’re down a couple goals,” Gilbert said. “You start pressing a little bit. I just don’t think we got to our game right away, and we let them dictate the way they wanted to play the game.”
After scoring four times in their season opener, the Wild had only 16 goals over their previous eight games. Schneider had a big hand — and stick — in extending the slide.
“Would have been a good chance for us to bounce back after not winning on the road trip, but we didn’t show up,” said Zach Parise, who had eight shots. “Pretty simple.”
Winless in four road games this season, the Wild returned with yet another new menu of forward groups as coach Mike Yeo continues to try to coax more production from this deep offence. Rookie Charlie Coyle was on the first line for his first NHL home game with Parise and Mikko Koivu, and slumping Dany Heatley was down on the second trio with Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
“The more you press, the more you squeeze your stick, the cuter you try to get, the more you try to force things, all the things that it takes to score goals, believe it or not you start to hurt yourself,” Yeo said.
The home crowd, starting to wonder when or if this renovated team is going to play up to the potential created by the summer signings of Parise and defenceman Ryan Suter, let out a few boos as the Wild left the ice at the first intermission. They got louder after the second period and more pronounced at the final horn.
“It’s not fun right now. Things aren’t going well,” Suter said.
After allowing five goals on 14 shots in the season opener, Schneider put himself back on track. He was sharp whenever the Wild got close.
Coyle and Koivu made consecutive crisp passes from the corner to the circle to set up Parise on the edge of the opposite circle, but Schneider was there to knock the puck out of harm’s way. The Wild put more pressure on Schneider in the second period, but they fumbled away whatever momentum they had wrestled away.
With Backstrom sprawled out after making a diving save, defenceman Clayton Stoner cleared the puck — right to Raymond’s stick. He wound up for the easy goal, like he was playing a pinball machine. Less than two minutes later, Raymond set up Hansen for a breakaway to make it 4-0.
“When we broke down, Cory was there to make some big saves. But that start was huge, and we were able to ride that wave,” said Alex Burrows, who had an assist.
Notes: Jordan Schroeder, a 2009 first-round draft pick by the Canucks out of the University of Minnesota, played his first NHL game in his home state. He attended high school at St. Thomas Academy in the St. Paul suburb of Mendota Heights, where the Canucks happened to practice Wednesday. … Sedin has 53 points in 65 career games against the Wild. … Zenon Konopka had 22 penalty minutes for the Wild, including two fights. He was whistled for instigating the second one and then ejected with a game misconduct call as he yelled and pointed at Dale Weise when they were in the box.