ANAHEIM — Alain Vigneault knew what he was doing.
In a not-so-subtle evaluation of Henrik and Daniel Sedin following their quiet outing Wednesday, the motivational shot across the bow was calculated. The Vancouver Canucks coach expected the twins to respond with a better effort Friday and that it should be infectious to open a three-game road trip.
With Cory Schneider frustrating the Ducks through the opening minutes of their home opener — making two tough saves in the first two minutes and four stellar stops through eight minutes to cement his starter status — a 5-on-3 power-play goal orchestrated by the Sedins opened scoring en route to a 5-0 decision. But it did more than just that. The Canucks scored three power play goals. They fought. And they didn’t blow another lead to improve to 2-1-1.
“The first road game takes a while to get going,” Schneider said of his 30-save performance and fourth career shutout. “I was able to see pucks and seal the ice and make some saves and for me to get them makes me feel better. After that we really took over. We stood up for each other, we stayed out of the box and didn’t retaliate and the power play was great and we got some secondary scoring.
“Our best 60-minute effort of the year and something we have to replicate a lot. You can see how important that third goal is and it really shifts momentum and kind of puts the game out of reach. If they get it, they’re right back in it.”
True, but the Ducks were never in it after their early flurry.
Alex Burrows had a much more complete and gritty effort. He set up Mason Raymond’s power-play goal, came to the defence of a flattened Jannik Hansen, who was roughed up by Bryan Allen, and then drew a penalty shot after being sprung with a long pass by Chris Higgins when he came out of the penalty box.
“We talked about urgency and it paid off,” said Burrows, who had a team high five shots. “My timing is a bit of an issue and I think I can contribute more offensively, but I’ll play centre and try to win faceoffs and play on the penalty kill. Anything is fine with me.”
That was the collective approach. Anything to win. Raymond even took a straight line to the net to score and added a second one for good measure on Jordan Schroeder’s first career point. Aaron Volpatti had an unassisted goal after he took on Matt Beleskey in a spirited scrap in the opening two minutes. Daniel Sedin even put a perfect power-play pass on to the stick of Zack Kassian in the vengeful rout.
“We got off to a slow start and didn’t seem to have our legs but Schneids came up with some really big saves,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault.
It was more than that. The Canucks may have been overzealous after they built a three-goal cushion but didn’t get too carried away. When Alex Edler rammed Cory Perry into the endboards late in the second period on a hit that went unpenalized, the Ducks winger responded by going after the defenceman and drawing a double minor for roughing and charging.
It was an obvious sign of frustration for the Ducks before sellout crowd of 17,529. But the Ducks just continued to unwind.
“You can’t take nine penalties against those guys and expect to win the game,” said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. “We were shorthanded almost 14 minutes and that’s too good of a team to do that.”
After scoring a dozen goals in their first two road wins, the Ducks could have equalled the best franchise start of 3-0-0 established in their championship 2006-07 season. It included a 7-3 drubbing of the Canucks on Jan. 19 at Rogers Arena where Schneider was pulled after allowing four goals on 15 shots and Roberto Luongo allowed two on a dozen shots.
After blowing two-goal leads in their last two outings, the Canucks were aware of starting strong and finishing that way. They had been outshot 32-18 in the third period of their first three games but outshot the Ducks 13-10 in the third and just kept pressing. And not backing down.
It came early with the Volpatti scrap because the constant knock around the league is that the defending Presidents’ Trophy winners are easy to play against. The push back then came where it mattered most thanks to the Sedins. Henrik threaded a pass through the skates of Francois Beauchemin and Daniel easily deposited at the side of the net on the 5-on-3 advantage. Burrows then bolted down the wing on another power play and worked his way around Luca Sbisa before centring a pass to Raymond. The winger outraced Sheldon Souray and Ryan Getzlaf for his first of two goals to up his count to three. Raymond only had two goals in his final 22 games last season.
As encouraging as that was, the way Burrows stood up for Hansen will resonate through the team. Even though he lost the handle and ran out of room on his penalty shot backhander when hooked by Sbisa, he had more jump. And while Kassian was having too quiet a night, his goal showed some fine finish.
And just in case the Ducks thought they would get something out of the night, Kevin Bieksa took exception to a Beleskey crosscheck in the third period and engaged the winger in a scrap. Perry then took out his frustrations on Keith Ballard. The Canucks responded with Raymond whipping a wrister past Jonas Hiller. It was too little way too late.
Game. Set. Match. Canucks.