VANCOUVER – Cory Schneider might not get many starts for the Vancouver Canucks, but he’s showing he can shine in big games.
Roberto Luongo’s backup made 37 saves against playoff rival Chicago Blackhawks in Vancover’s tense 3-2 overtime victory on Tuesday.
It was Schneider’s third start of the month, all wins. He stopped 39 pucks Jan. 7 in a 4-3 win over Stanley Cup nemesis Boston.
“Quality over quantity, right?” Schneider said after posting his 11th win of the season and fourth in a row against only five losses.
“It’s exciting to get these opportunities. I don’t get them a whole lot because of the way Roberto plays and he’s big in big games.”
Schneider’s stock is rising. He will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season and is constantly mentioned when fans talk about potential trades.
“For me, it’s an opportunity and I can’t let them slip by,” Schneider said of getting starts in big games.
“I can’t afford to have a bad game. In the first period it was a little … getting my timing back (after the all-star break).”
Daniel Sedin’s 22nd goal of the season at 3:37 of the extra period won it for the Canucks, who also got goals from Ryan Kesler and rookie Cody Hodgson.
Jamal Mayers and Viktor Stalberg replied for Chicago, which took Vancouver to overtime in Game 7 of the first round of last spring’s playoffs.
The Canucks won their third straight game to improve to 31-15-4 and move a point ahead of Chicago with a game in hand in the competitive West.
The Blackhawks lost their third in a row to slip to 29-15-7. Chicago won the conference title in 2009-10 while the Canucks were the champions last season,
Schneider made many key saves to preserve a 1-1 tie when Vancouver was outshot 18-6 in the middle period.
“He made some unbelievable stops,” said Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieksa.
“They had a lot of odd-man rushes and he made a lot of side-to-side stops (which) are not easy to do. He’s in position all the time.”
Schneider denied Stalberg several times including once in the third period when the Chicago forward broke in alone on a pass from Patrick Kane then robbed Andrew Shaw on the rebound.
The Canuck netminder brought the crowd to its feet with 4:23 remaining in the second period when he foiled Brendan Morrison after misplaying the puck behind his own net.
The Canuck goalie was prone on the ice but somehow got an arm on Morrison’s shot when the Hawk newcomer fired at a nearly wide open net.
“I botched it behind the net,” said Schneider, who had help from defenceman Alex Edler as he scrambled back to his crease where he flopped as Morrison shot.
“I just remember reaching as far as I could and the puck hit me. I was more upset with myself than happy about the save.”
Daniel Sedin scored the winner on a bang-bang play after taking pass from brother Henrik behind Chicago goalie Corey Crawford.
“We were able to hold on to the puck for a while and Danny gave it to me behind the net,” said Henrik, who won the offensive zone faceoff.
“He knows where to go so it wasn’t a tough pass to make.”
Crawford finished with 30 saves including a spectacular glove stop off Henrik Sedin in overtime.
“I just tried to get over as quick as I could and take up as much net as I could,” Crawford said.
The Hawks got an offensive boost when Jonathan Towes and Patrick Sharp, who have 47 goals between them, came back from injuries.
“It’s definitely frustrating,”Crawford said. “We keep getting these bad bounces against us. We controlled the second period. A tough game, two good teams.”
Kesler’s goal went in of the shaft of a defender’s stick while Hodgson scored on a breakaway after a neutral zone turnover by Stalberg.
Mayers scored in the first period with the Canucks scrambling in their own end while Stalberg bounced a shot in off Edler for a 2-1 lead early in the third period.
The Hawks felt they should have beengiven at least a power play in overtime when Canuck defenceman Dan Hamhuis hacked at Stalberg in a scoring position.
“He slashed my hands and I couldn’t make the move I wanted,” Stalberg said. “I think it was pretty clear it fit the definition of a penalty shot.”
Toews said it was a frustrating game where the Hawks, who had the only two power plays, paid for their mistakes.
“We had chances to distance ourselves on the power play and five-on-five, a ton of odd-man rushes in the second period. Give their goaltender credit, he played well.”
Notes: Sharp (hand) was out eight games while Toews (arm) returned after missing one start … Morrison made his Chicago debut after being dealt Friday by the Calgary Flames … he was a Canuck from 2000 to 2008 … Chicago is the Pitt Meadows, B.C. native’s seventh NHL team … the Hawks have eight games remaining on their season-long road trip which ends Feb. 16 against the Rangers.