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The Goods: Road to the top

Friday, 11.03.2011 / 2:30 AM / Features
By Derek Jory
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The Goods: Road to the top

Alex Burrows redeemed himself the only way he knows how.

With the Vancouver Canucks leading the San Jose Sharks 4-3 with less than a minute to play in the fourth and final meeting between the division leaders Thursday night at the HP Pavilion, Burrows was called for holding the stick giving the Sharks a 6-on-4 power play.

A mere 14 seconds into the two-man advantage (Antti Niemi was on the bench), Ryane Clowe scored to even the game and force overtime with San Jose still out for blood.

Despite being outshot 9-0 in five minutes of extra time, the Canucks fought their way to a shootout and when Burrows stood at centre ice as Vancouver’s second shooter, his mission was clear: score.

A flick of the wrist faking forehand and Burrows drilled the puck top shelf on the backhand lifting the Canucks to a 5-4 win, their fourth consecutive victory and fourth on a five-game road trip.

“Obviously that’s never a good feeling to be in the box when the other team ties it late, but I know a lot of my teammates were supporting me and to get that chance from the coaching staff to go into a shootout and try to win it for the boys was big,” said Burrows, on the heels of Vancouver’s 44th win, six off a franchise record.

Burrows opened the scoring early and bookended the game by scoring late, between goals it was all Cory Schneider, all the time.

The Canucks netminder, starting his 20th game of the season, was ignored in the opening period and he went into the second riding a shutout streak of 112 minutes and 19 seconds. Vancouver led 2-0 off goals from Burrows and Sami Salo as the real San Jose team had yet to make an appearance, but that ended abruptly with back-to-back Sharks goals 67 seconds apart 2:04 into the period. Here we go.

Mason Raymond put the Canucks up 3-2 5:38 into the stanza and that’s how the game stood until a late Sharks goal with less than three minutes remaining in regulation. Daniel Sedin and Clowe swapped goals after that to earn a point for both teams.

The Canucks have Schneider to thank for being in a position to earn even a single point. After facing just six shots early on, Schneider was under siege for the remainder facing 42; San Jose outshot Vancouver 48-28 overall in a game that had Western Conference Final written all over it.

Let’s give Schneider a chance to catch his breath before raising that possibility.

“There were a couple of points there in the second and third where I was pretty tired,” said Schneider, “but I just tried to hold the fort and give us a chance to win and we got some big goals late and held on there at the end.”

Schneider had show-stopping saves on Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Jamal Mayers, Joe Thornton, Devon Setoguchi... maybe it’s easier to name the Sharks he didn’t twart: Douglas Murray and Ben Eager.

This game was a far cry from Schneider’s first visit to the Shark Tank on December 23rd, 2008, when he allowed five goals on 15 shots in a 5-0 loss to San Jose. Today’s Schneider is a different goaltender, one spinning webs, any size, catching pucks just like flies.

“That one still haunts me sometimes,” laughed Schneider, about the loss two years ago, adding that his composure has matured since then.

“It’s all I can do as a goalie is not worry about the ones that have gone in and get ready for the next one. We had to kill a big penalty there in overtime and Burr got a big goal in the shootout. Sometimes you just have to give your team a chance to win and sure enough they did it.

“It just seemed like one of those games where the last team to score might win.”

It was indeed one of those games and because of the heroics of Schneider and Burrows, the Canucks have a chance to win five consecutive games on a five-game road trip for the first time since beating Winnipeg, Edmonton, Quebec, Detroit and St. Louis from January 14th to 25th, 1992.

NOTES

Chris Higgins became the 39th player to wear a Canucks jersey this season suiting up for the first time versus the Sharks, he had 12:49 of ice time; Vancouver is now 36-2-6 when opening the scoring; Daniel and Henrik Sedin each have seven points during four game point streaks.