VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) – Cory Schneider did not let a weak effort keep him down for long.
Schneider made 33 saves through overtime and stopped all three of Detroit’s shootout attempts, helping the Vancouver Canucks clinch a playoff spot with a 2-1 victory over the Red Wings on Saturday night.
“It’s nice to finally get that check mark,” said Schneider. “You’re never in until you’re in. This Western Conference is so competitive, and it seems like everyone wants to win it and everyone goes on a run at some point.
“So to get into the playoffs is our first goal and, hopefully, we can go a step further now and clinch our division. So we’re just going to try to put our heads down and keep going.”
Schneider was happy to rebound from a poor showing in a 5-1 loss to Dallas, a game in which he allowed four third-period goals. He bounced back in a big way, blanking the Wings while they outshot the Canucks 17-2 in the third period and 4-1 in the overtime.
“He was real good,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “He made some great saves against some great players. He gave us a chance to win it in the shootout and, obviously, he was our best player tonight.”
The coach also praised his club for getting into the playoffs with three games remaining in the regular season after battling numerous injuries, notably to center Ryan Kesler, who was sidelined for extended periods with wrist and shoulder problems stemming from last season and a broken foot this season. Vancouver is also dealing with injuries to several defensemen.
“It’s not easy to get into the playoffs, to have the opportunity to challenge for the (Stanley) Cup,” said Vigneault. “It’s the first step, and this group, I believe, deserves a lot of credit for getting in. It’s tough to get in, and we did it under some very tough circumstances.”
Maxim Lapierre scored in the shootout for the Canucks, who won their seventh straight at home and prevented the Red Wings from breaking the playoff threshold. Lapierre beat Jimmy Howard with a forehand-to-backhand deke, roofing the puck into the net.
“I wanted to be patient,” said Lapierre, who skated toward the net slowly. “There’s not many holes there. He’s pretty big in net.”
Alex Edler scored for Vancouver and Damien Brunner had one for Detroit in the first period, but neither team could score again until the shootout as Howard and Schneider sparkled at different times.
Schneider was by far the busier of the two goaltenders as the Red Wings outshot the Canucks 34-14. The performance was an important one heading into the playoffs, because Schneider will be the go-to-guy after displacing Roberto Luongo in last year’s playoffs.
“(Schneider) was great again,” said Vancouver winger Alex Burrows, who was thwarted on a first-period short-handed breakaway and a partial breakaway in the second. “He has been playing great for us for a long time now, and that’s what we come to expect from him. That’s the play he is able to bring every night and we’ll need that down the stretch.”
The Canucks scored on one of four power-play chances, while the Wings were blanked on three.
Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg, who was among the Red Wing trio denied in showdown session, said his struggling team, which has won just once in the last six games, played better than it did in a loss to Calgary on Wednesday, but again failed to execute.
“Both teams played really good defense,” said Zetterberg. “The goalies played well. I wasn’t really surprised it went to a shootout.”
The loss left Detroit, a perennial powerhouse that has qualified for the playoffs for 21 straight seasons, in ninth place with four games remaining in the regular season.
“We have to find a way to score more goals,” said coach Mike Babcock. “We will just continue to work hard.”
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