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Canucks hold off Stars for 2-1 win

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS -- Mason Raymond stepped in for the injured Daniel Sedin on Vancouver's top line and contributed a goal and an assist as the Canucks beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 at American Airlines Center on Thursday night.

"It was a real solid team effort I thought from start to finish, two teams that battled real hard," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "Unfortunately [Schneider] lost his shutout on that play there but I really liked our overall game."

Vancouver (44-21-9) also got a pair of assists from Henrik Sedin and 25 saves from Cory Schneider -- including one on a second-period penalty shot by Mike Ribeiro. A fluke third-period goal by Vernon Fiddler was the only puck to get past him.

The loss, combined with a 3-2 win by Phoenix against Colorado, knocked the Stars (40-29-5) out of the top spot in the Pacific Division. They ended the night in eighth place in the Western Conference -- they're even with Colorado at 85 points but are ahead of the Avs because they have played fewer games.

The Canucks had to shuffle their lines to cope with the absence of Daniel Sedin, who took an elbow to the head Wednesday night in Chicago. Vigneault opted to move Raymond to the top line and was rewarded at 4:46 of the opening period when Raymond took a pass from Henrik Sedin at the far post and banged it behind Kari Lehtonen, giving the Canucks a 1-0 lead.

After the game, Henrik offered an update on the status of his twin brother, who returned to Vancouver in the afternoon.

"We all saw what happened, so there's going to be symptoms after that," Sedin said. "Just went back today and still a little bit of headache. I think that comes with a hit like that, so we'll see."

At 9:21 of the first, Vancouver's Dale Weise and the Stars' Jake Dowell dropped the gloves, resulting in five-minute fighting penalties for each player.

Schneider made several big saves in the opening period, including big stops on snap shots by Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder. He also kept the Stars off the board in the second with a save on a Tom Wandell backhander from 15 feet midway through the period.

The Canucks goaltender also came up big after Ribeiro was awarded a penalty shot at 12:55 of the middle period. Ribeiro, one of the NHL's slickest shootout artists, got the penalty shot after being hooked by Dan Hamhuis on a breakaway; he tried to go five-hole on Schneider but was denied and fell to 0-for-3 in his career on penalty shots.

"I wasn't really sure what he was going to do with it," Schneider said. "Don't know if he was trying to go past my blocker or through my arm, but I stayed with him and made the save."

Vancouver had a 5-on-3 power play at 14:23 of the second after Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas took a roughing penalty with Ribeiro already in the box serving a slashing penalty. However, the two-man advantage lasted just 57 seconds before the Canucks' Alexander Burrows was whistled for holding at 15:20.

"I didn't think we were focused," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "Our game plan was to keep the pace high, stay whistle to whistle. I thought, we did in the first few minutes. Schneider withstood the test and made a few good saves and then we lost focus."

Vancouver made it 2-0 at 4:18 of the third period when Kevin Bieksa collected his own rebound and beat Lehtonen for his eighth of the season.

However, the Stars caught a huge break at 7:44 when Schneider went behind the net to play the puck but whiffed on a clearing pass. He then lost his footing as the puck slid into the crease, and Fiddler poked in to make it 2-1.

Lehtonen nearly gave it back 30 seconds later when his clearing pass landed right on the stick of Vancouver center Samuel Pahlsson, but Pahlsson fired wide.
The Stars pulled Lehtonen with 1:06 remaining and got a break with 45 seconds left when Bieksa was called for high-sticking Eriksson, but Dallas was unable to muster a good scoring chance. Burrows got in front of Alex Goligoski's straightaway blast from just inside the blue line and blocked it a second before the final horn.

"It's kind of a blooper," Bieksa said of the penalty. "I went behind the  net and then when I came out front, I think [Schneider] tripped me and as I was falling backwards, my stick just happened to hit the guy. So luckily the guys got the kill but it's a pretty strange penalty."

Lehtonen finished with 26 saves.
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