Schneider was rock solid in between the pipes for the Canucks turning aside 33 shots in a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center Thursday night.
The victory was Vancouver’s fifth straight, second consecutive on the road and third in three starts for Schneider, who has allowed only three goals this season. The Canucks are now 7-3-2 on the year.
“It seems like very game I play I get more confident and comfortable and tonight was probably the most challenging of any of the games, but again my teammates gave me goal support, they blocked shots, they boxed down in front of me, they do everything I need them to do so they’re making life easy on me,” said Schneider, he of the miniscule 0.90 goals against average and masterful .969 save percentage.
Truth be told, Schneider is making life easy on the Canucks as they’ve responded to playing in front of the backup netminder.
In three starts Schneider has been rewarded with 13 goals for; on this night it was Ryan Kesler, Henrik Sedin and Raffi Torres doing the damage on the scoresheet.
All three Vancouver scores came on the power play with Kesler snapping a wrist shot past Peter Budaj from the top of the circle 3:14 into the first, Sedin netting his first game-winner of the year on a rebound off the boards 3:33 into the second and Torres finding the back of the net for the seventh time this season and fifth time in three games on a tip in front 4:03 into the third.
With Schneider stopping 20 shots through two periods and 29 with three and a half minutes remaining, the only question remaining was if he would pick up his first NHL shutout and become the 30th goaltender in Canucks franchise history to post a perfect game – a tall task against the Avalanche, the NHL’s highest scoring team.
Think back to Schneider’s last start on October 22nd when the Minnesota Wild beat him with 2:35 to play in the third to break his shutout bid. Fate couldn’t possibly be so cruel twice, could it?
Karma was indeed against Schneider in his first road start as Colorado’s David Van Der Gulik hacked in a puck with 3:08 remaining for his first career NHL goal.
“I asked Roberto to teach me how to finish games off since he’s got quite a few of them,” joked Schneider about the near shutout. “I’ll absolutely take the win, I didn’t want to give up that goal to give them a breath of air and a chance, but the win is what’s important.”
The win has the Canucks looking more like the elite squad fans expected to start the season than ever before and with five of the next six games taking place away from Rogers Arena, getting in a groove away from home was of the utmost importance.
This complete team win proved Vancouver is learning how to win on the road.
“I think we got on a roll at home there with three back-to-back wins and kind of found our game,” said Kevin Bieksa. “The big thing with us is we wanted to come on the road and not change much at all, we didn’t want to come and adapt our game to the road, we wanted to keep playing the same way and it’s working out for us.”
Special play on special teams made it a special night for the Canucks in Denver.
For the fifth consecutive game Vancouver shutout its opposition on the power play stopping Colorado on both its power play chances. The Canucks have killed off 16 straight penalties dating back to October 19th when Minnesota humiliated them with three power play goals in a 6-2 Wild victory.
The Canucks have been lights out since then and now sit ninth in the league at 86.4% on the penalty kill. That success has also translated into some sensational play on their own man advantages.
Vancouver went 3-for-4 on the power play against Colorado and over the last four games the Canucks have gone 6-for-14, good for top spot in the NHL with a power play percentage of 28.3.
“It look a little bit of getting used to being on the first unit with Hank and Danny and playing in front of the net, but we’re working well and getting the job done,” said Ryan Kesler, who opened the scoring on the power play and has five goals this season, three at 5-on-4.
Daniel Sedin leads all Canucks with four power play goals, followed by Kesler’s three, while Christian Ehrhoff and Torres have two apiece and Mason Raymond and Henrik Sedin have singles.
In the penalty kill department, Dan Hamhuis leads the team in shorthanded ice time at 4:19 a game, Manny Malhotra sits second at 2:46 and Kevin Bieksa is close behind at 2:12.
Guillaume Desbiens left the game in the first period and did not return, after the game it was revealed the forward broke his hand and will be out indefinitely; the last time Vancouver won five straight games was from Jan 21 – Jan 30, 2010; the Canucks finish out a stretch of four games in six nights against the Detroit Red Wings at Rogers Arena on Saturday.