With Alain Vigneault deciding Tuesday to put Cory Schneider in net against the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets for his sixth consecutive start, the Canucks looked for their "backup" to continue his excellent play against a weakened opponent.
The BC product did not disappoint in a 4-1 victory, stopping all but one of the Jackets' 48 shots on his way to his seventh win of the season, while former Canucks netminder Curtis Sanford had a respectable performance but suffered from a painful lack of offensive support from the visiting club.
The Canucks spent most of the game demonstrating their dominance of the transition game and preventing Columbus from getting any fluid movement through the neutral zone, breaking up passes, punishing the puck carriers, and moving around the offensive zone seemingly at will.
The Canucks opened the scoring early in the first period when Alexander Edler laid a pass to Daniel Sedin deep in the Jackets zone, and Sedin was able to kick the puck from his skates to stick blade in one smooth motion before firing a quick wrist shot past Sanford.
Despite an extended sequence of attacks on the Columbus net following the goal the Canucks were not be able to follow up to extend their lead until late in the opening frame when David Booth exposed a lapse in coverage by Fedor Tyutin to fire on shot on net, catching his own rebound and shoveling it across the goal line with a backhander to give Vancouver a 2-0 lead heading into the locker room.
In the second period the Blue Jackets renewed their attack and had several strong scoring opportunities, including a sequence where rookie Ryan Johansen nearly tucked a shot under the crossbar from one knee, but Schneider had answers for every attempt, and the Canucks sat back and simply focused on defending their lead.
An early power play for the Canucks in the third period appeared to give Vancouver a chance to pad the lead with Nikita Nikitin in the box for holding, but it would be Columbus who seemed poised to take advantage when Antoine Vermette and Fedor Tyutin broke out of their zone on the PK. After gaining the zone, Tyutin fired a shot on goal that rebounded into the slot for a waiting Samuel Pahlsson, who sent the puck through Schneider's legs for the shorthanded tally.
The rally was cut short decisively by Ryan Kesler just after the Nikitin penalty expired, with the Columbus PK still trapped in their own zone. Alexander Edler intercepted a clearing attempt and sent it cleanly to the former Ohio State winger as he cut across the zone, and Kesler was able to fire a shot while off balance that seemed to surprise Sanford and restored a two goal lead.
The Blue Jackets searched for an opportunity to get back into the game but was stymied by Schneider, who seemed almost terrifyingly confident as he swallowed shots and generally avoided dangerous rebounds. Columbus head coach Scott Arniel pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with a little over two minutes left in regulation, but the Jackets attack seemed uncoordinated in the face of the Canucks' defense and eventually surrendered the puck with just under a minute to go, allowing Alex Burrows to take the puck down the ice and seal a result that had never truly seemed to be in doubt.
The win gives Schneider five consecutive wins in five consecutive starts, and likely turns up the pressure on the Vancouver coaching staff and front office about who will be the team's real "No. 1" netminder going forward, while the Blue Jackets will be forced to look for a rebound on the road as they continue on to Alberta to match up with the Flames and Oilers.