Canucks surge past Wild
ST. PAUL — Corey Schneider made 22 saves and Mason Raymond had a power-play goal and an assist in the second period to lead Vancouver past the sputtering Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Thursday night, the fourth straight win for the Canucks.
Niklas Backstrom gave up two scores in each of the first two periods for the Wild, and Josh Harding was in the net for the final frame. Daniel Sedin, Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen also had goals for the Canucks, whose shutout was spoiled by Tom Gilbert’s power-play slap shot with 12:35 left.
After scoring four times in their season opener, the Wild had only 16 goals over their previous eight games. Schneider had a big hand — and stick — in extending the slide.
Despite Roberto Luongo owning the league’s third-best goals-against average after playing the last four games, the veteran has struggled here in recent years. So Schneider backed up coach Alain Vigneault’s trust in giving him the start.
After allowing five goals on 14 shots in the opener, Schneider got back on track in a big way against the division-rival Wild.
Winless in four road games this season, the Wild returned home vowing not to worry about the slow start but with yet another new menu of forward groups as coach Mike Yeo continues to try to coax more scoring out of this deep offense. Rookie Charlie Coyle was on the first line for his first NHL home game with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, and slumping Dany Heatley was down on the second trio with Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Backstrom made his third straight start after replacing Harding in the first period of the Wild’s shootout win over Chicago on Jan. 30. With his team struggling to generate many scoring chances on the other end, Backstrom compounded the problem with some long rebounds. One of them gave the Canucks their first goal, when Sedin was in position to sweep in the ricochet of a shot by Alex Burrows.
About 5½ minutes later, just 1 second after a Canucks power play expired, Higgins parked next to the crease and flicked an attempt by Maxim Lapierre through Backstrom’s legs for a 2-0 lead.
Schneider was sharp whenever the Wild got close.
Coyle and Koivu made consecutive crisp passes from the corner to the circle to set up Parise on the edge of the opposite circle, but Schneider was there to knock the puck out of harm’s way. The home crowd, starting to wonder when or if this renovated team is going to play up to the potential created by the summer signings of Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter, let out a few boos as the Wild left the ice at the first intermission.
The Wild put more pressure on Schneider in the second period, but he denied Parise’s snap shot and Coyle’s backhanded rebound try in the same sequence, further frustrating the Wild and their fans. Then, on a power play, Devin Setoguchi twice wound up for slap shots with a clean path to the goal. Schneider blocked the first one, and the second one sailed wide. Matt Cullen was in position for a one-timer in the slot, but he whiffed on that attempt. The energy shifted hard enough to the Wild then that Vigneault used his timeout right after the extra-skater situation ended.
And the Wild fumbled away whatever momentum they had wrestled away.
With Backstrom sprawled out after making a diving save, defenseman Clayton Stoner cleared the puck — right to Raymond’s stick. He wound up for the easy goal, like he was playing a pinball machine. Less than two minutes later, Raymond set up Hansen for a breakaway to make it 4-0. Those boos were much louder as the Wild went to the locker room this time.
Notes: Jordan Schroeder, a 2009 first-round draft pick by the Canucks out of the University of Minnesota, played his first NHL game in his home state. He attended high school at St. Thomas Academy in the St. Paul suburb of Mendota Heights, where the Canucks happened to practice Wednesday. ... Sedin has 53 points in 65 career games against the Wild. ... Zenon Konopka had 22 penalty minutes for the Wild, including two fights. He was whistled for instigating the second one and then ejected with a game misconduct call as he yelled and pointed at Dale Weise when they were in the box.