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Canucks blow lead but beat Lightning 5-4 in shootout

by Lonnie Herman
TAMPA -- After three games in four days on the road, the Vancouver Canucks were almost out of gas. Mason Raymond and Cory Schneider made sure they left the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Tuesday night with two points.

Raymond's spinning backhander produced the only goal of the shootout and Schneider stopped all three Tampa Bay attempts in the tiebreaker as the Canucks survived a blown two-goal lead in the third period to earn a 5-4 win against the Lightning.

Vancouver led 4-2 after two periods, but Steve Downie scored early in the third period and Ryan Malone tied it at 18:59. That goal had to survive a review -- Martin St. Louis' pass hit Malone's skate and went into the net, but the review upheld the on-ice ruling that there was no distinct kicking motion, so the goal stood.

After a scoreless overtime, Raymond beat Dwayne Roloson in the second round of the shootout with his spinorama move.

"It's a trick, if you want to say, or a move you have in your bag, but it's not used that often," Raymond said. "It's maybe a high-risk one, but maybe also high reward."

Schneider then closed out the win by denying NHL goal-scoring leader Steven Stamkos.

"I think I'm happy with my level (of play) and just staying in games and getting wins," Schneider said. "They're not always picture perfect, and sometimes as a team you play to the score. To me, it's just trying to make key saves at the right times, and if it has to go to a shootout, so be it."

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher had said that a good first five minutes would be crucial. Unfortunately for Boucher, by the time the five-minute mark rolled around, the Canucks were up 1-0 and Tampa Bay was still in search of its first shot on goal.

The Canucks (27-14-3) scored on their second shot of the game and added a shorthanded goal to break out to a fast 2-0 lead.

Alexander Edler opened the scoring at 2:36 with his seventh goal of the season -- and the 30th time this season the Canucks have opened the scoring. Jannik Hansen added a shorthanded goal, his 13th, at 8:16. It was the sixth shorthanded goal allowed by Tampa Bay this season and the fourth that Vancouver has scored.

Tampa Bay (17-20-4) scored twice in the second period with two goals -- but each time the Lightning edged closer, the Canucks answered with a goal.

Stamkos scored his League-leading 29th of the season at 10:12 of the middle period, but Manny Malhotra restored the Canucks' two-goal lead at 12:27. Mike Duco, playing in only his second NHL game, got the first point of his career with an assist on Malhotra's goal.

The Lightning cut the deficit to one goal again with Vincent Lecavalier's 16th goal of the season with 31.6 seconds remaining in the period. Lecavalier knocked home a rebound after Schneider stopped Stamkos on a breakaway. But Ryan Kesler pushed the puck past Roloson during a scramble with only 1.4 seconds remaining to restore the Canucks' two-goal advantage.

"They're Stanley Cup contenders," Boucher said. "We came back twice from two goals, so that's a character comeback. We could have easily got nothing against a team like that, so that was good."

Schneider made 27 saves to improve to 8-1-0 in his last nine decisions as the Canucks improved to 21-0-0 when leading after two periods.

"They don't look like an 11th-place team," Schneider said. "With three games in four nights, we'll take the two points however we can get them.

Coach Alain Vigneault echoed Schneider's remarks about the schedule impacting the team's third-period collapse.

"No excuses, but it was our third game in four nights," Vigneault said. "We've been playing a lot of hockey lately."

Roloson, still without a win since Nov. 17, allowed four goals on 28 shots.

Henrik Sedin extended his lead in points with an assist on Edler's goal. The assist was his 39th and made him the first player in the League to reach 50 points this season.

The loss snapped the Lightning's four-game home winning streak, but St. Louis, who collected two assists, found reason for optimism.

"We pushed the pace," St. Louis said. "That's when we're tough to play. It showed in us coming back and the scoring chances we generated. We showed character again and we have to build off this game."

Tampa Bay will play 12 of its next 18 games at home, where the Lightning are 11-5-1. Those games are crucial if the Lightning expect to claw their way back into playoff contention.

"In the face of adversity there are three things: fly, freeze or you have got to fight," Boucher said. "And we're choosing to fight."
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