VANCOUVER – Now that the Vancouver Canucks are no longer counting on their top line to score every game, it makes it easier for them to do just that.
After a week focused on the trade-deadline addition of scoring center Derek Roy and the return of a handful of injured forwards, it was the top duo of Daniel and Henrik Sedin – with a lot of help from No.1 goalie Cory Schneider – that led the Canucks to a 5-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.
Henrik scored into an empty net with 10.1 seconds left and added two assists, including the 600th of his career, and Daniel had three assists as the identical twins set up goals by Dan Hamhuis, Alexandre Burrows and Alexander Edler. Add an assist for Burrows and Vancouver's top line combined for eight points.
"Hank, Danny and Burr had some great shifts in their end and generated some scoring chances and some big goals,," Schneider said. "Our best players were our best players."
Schneider was no slouch himself, turning aside 36 shots and several point-blank chances against a Flames team coming off a 2-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks the night before and is playing out the season after trading long-time captain Jarome Iginla and top defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. Despite all that – and even after giving up a goal to Hamhuis just 34 seconds in – the Flames actually carried the play for long stretches, especially in the first period, and outshot the Canucks 38-22.
"You never critique a win," coach Alain Vigneault said, "But tonight our best player was our goaltender. He made some unreal saves."
He wasn't getting any arguments from Calgary counterpart Bob Hartley.
"I really believe Cory Schneider was the difference in tonight's game," Hartley said. "He made some unbelievable saves at critical times of the game."
Dale Weise also scored – the only Vancouver goal that didn't directly involve the Sedins – as the Canucks won for the eighth time in 10 games to move four points ahead of the Minnesota Wild atop the Northwest Division.
Most of those wins have been low-scoring, one-goal wins, but after adding Roy in a trade with the Dallas Stars on Tuesday – and also getting Zack Kassian, Weise and Mason Raymond back from injury – the Canucks have scored nine goals in consecutive wins. That matches the total from their previous five games, a figure that includes two empty-net goals in a 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche. The Sedins have been in on six of those nine goals this week.
"I don't ever think the match ups changes for us, it's just we got more guys that can score," Henrik said. "We see the same stuff but in your head you relax a little more, you don't feel the pressure to score every time you are out there."
They did on the opening shift, with Hamhuis converting a 2-on-1 after Daniel chipped the puck past a bad pinch by Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, who rejoined the team after missing a game for the birth of his son.
Weise and Dennis Wideman traded goals before the period ended, but the Canucks extended their lead with second-period goals set up by the Sedins.
Burrows jammed in a rebound after Henrik set up Daniel for a wraparound 7:24 into the period, and Henrik won an offensive zone to start a power play back to Daniel, who fed across for a one-time goal with 27 seconds left in the period.
It was the second straight game in which Vancouver's 28th-ranked power play scored – the first time that has happened since Feb. 21 – and just the fourth goal in 22 games for the Canucks with the man advantage.
"It's a lot of helpers," Daniel said of his brother's 600th assist. "He's been in the league a long time and he's obviously a good passer."
Alex Tanguay also scored, and Miikka Kiprusoff, starting on consecutive nights, made 18 saves the Flames, who are 0-12-1 in their last 13 road games.
Playing without first-line forward Curtis Glencross, who hurt his leg in San Jose, Calgary also lost tough guy Brian McGrattan with a shoulder injury in the second period. Yet the Flames continued to push, forcing Schneider to come up with several big saves while the result was still in question.
He made a trio of great stops – and got a break when Mike Cammalleri hit the post – before Weise, in his first game back after missing six with a shoulder injury, got a piece of Jason Garrison's one-timer from the point at 6:57.
Schneider also robbed Roman Cervenka from the slot early in the second, and gloved Lee Stempniak's shot from the slot on a 3-on-1 early in the third, but Tanguay, who also hit a post earlier, beat him between the legs midway through the third after being sent in alone by Stempniak off the left wing.
"Sometimes when you are playing loose, you make things happen, you play with confidence and you are aggressive offensively," Schneider said. "They worked hard on the forecheck, forced a lot of turnovers and made it hard on us."