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Canucks blank Oilers, grab first in Northwest Division

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks learned their lesson and got some revenge against the young, high-octane Edmonton Oilers.

Blitzed early in a 4-0 loss to the Oilers five days earlier, the Canucks tightened up defensively in the rematch on Thursday night, with Cory Schneider needing to make just 12 saves through 40 minutes and 23 overall while backstopping a 4-0 Vancouver victory that ended Edmonton's winning streak at five games.

"We made sure that after last game in Edmonton that we did the same thing to them in our building," said Schneider, who was pulled after allowing two goals on the first two shots he faced during that loss to the Oilers on Saturday.

"They get so many of their looks off the rush and on the power play, so when you take that away and stay out of the box, it allows us to spend some more time in their end," Schneider continued. "We were responsible, we didn't cheat, we were patient, and didn't let them get too much on the rush."

It was a reversal of their last meeting, and newcomer Derek Roy played a big role in it. Acquired from the Dallas Stars before the trade deadline to fill a big hole at center, Roy not only set up Chris Higgins on a 2-on-1 to give the Canucks a 3-0 lead 6:47 into the third period, but he helped them escape their own end cleanly and get back on offense, generating several great chances in his debut.

"Derek obviously set up Jannik [Hansen] and Chris a few times throughout the night and finally got rewarded on that third goal," Schneider said after his fourth shutout of the season and the eighth of his career. "You can already see the impact that he's having, being responsible guy down low and making those deft passes out of our own zone that get us going."

It was a big difference from the last meeting, when the Canucks fell behind 4-0 on the first five shots and generated little offensively the rest of the way.

Roy helped kill penalties and draw them – Vancouver's struggling power play got five chances against the Oilers, more than in their last three games combined.

Kevin Bieksa converted a 5-on-3 advantage late in the first period, ending a 2-for-53 slump with just the third goal in 21 games for the 29th-ranked power play.

Henrik Sedin finished off a pretty passing play with twin brother Daniel to make it 2-0 late in the second period. And after Roy set up Higgins, Zack Kassian, called back up from the American Hockey League after a one-game demotion, rounded out the scoring on a rebound with 3.9 seconds left as the Canucks moved two points ahead of the Minnesota Wild atop the Northwest Division.

For all the scoring – it was just the fourth time in 17 games the Canucks put more than two pucks behind a goaltender – the defense was more impressive against an Oilers team that had outscored opponents 25-7 during its winning streak.

"We know they are an offensive powerhouse," said Roy, who had two shots and helped set up Higgins for six. "They like to generate stuff off turnovers so we did a good job not turning it over and making sure we were backchecking too."

After surging into the tight Western Conference playoff race with the win streak, the loss dropped back to ninth place, one point below the playoff bar.

"We have a lot more respect, we feel that," Edmonton coach Ralph Krueger said. "Teams are coming at us hard and what we did to them last time, they were definitely sitting here hungry to come back at us. We knew that."

The Oilers just didn't have an answer for it.

"We just didn't seem to bring the energy we needed to match their intensity," Krueger said. "I thought the desire was there but we just couldn't match what was for them a very strong game – as good as I have seen them play this year."

Nikolai Khabibulin started in goal for Edmonton – the only change after an 8-2 romp over the Calgary Flames the night before – and kept it close with several great saves while the Oilers were being outshot 13-5 in the first period.

"They got the jump on us," said Khabibulin, who finished with 24 saves. "It looked like they were half a step quicker to loose pucks and everything."

After failing to record a shot on the first chance, the Canucks' struggling power play converted shortly after giving up a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush on their second. Daniel Sedin hustled back to break that up and threw it up the boards, catching the Oilers with too many men on the ice. That gave Vancouver a two-man advantage for 1:07, and Bieksa ended a couple droughts with a one-timer from the top of the left circle that beat Khabibulin on the blocker side.

"I really thought penalties did us in tonight," Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff said.

Henrik Sedin doubled lead with 5:34 left in the second period, passing out from behind the net to his brother atop the right circle then sneaking unnoticed to other side of the net for a nice return feed past two defenders.

Schneider made his best saves on Edmonton power plays in the third period, stuffing Magnus Paajarvi early and making a gloved robbery of Taylor Hall, who came in with 15 points on a six-game streak, with five minutes left.

Shortly after that first penalty kill, Roy, who was acquired from Dallas for a second-round draft pick and prospect defenseman Kevin Connauton on Tuesday, set up Higgins, who signed a four-year, $10-million extension hours later.

"He saw me all the way and feathered a beautiful pass over to me. It was a hell of a pass," Higgins said "He's put up points throughout his whole career and he's obviously going to create offense all by himself, it's just a matter of me and Jannik finishing off his opportunities."

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