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Schneider makes 44 saves, Canucks beat Sharks 5-4 in shootout after wild finish

Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler (17) is unable to score past San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) in the first period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, March 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

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Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler (17) is unable to score past San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) in the first period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, March 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Vancouver's offensive slump is over and the Canucks are getting big nights out of their backup goalie. It's just another step toward the post-season for the NHL's best team.

Cory Schneider made 44 saves and stopped all three San Jose attempts in the shootout and Alexandre Burrows scored in the second round of the tiebreaker in the Canucks' wild 5-4 victory Thursday night.

"We seem to be winning all sorts of ways and that's a good sign," said Schneider, who was making a rare start in place of Roberto Luongo. "They really just kept coming and coming in the third period. We sort of held the fort and Burrows had the big goal in the shootout to get the win."

Vancouver ended February and began March in a scoring slump but has outscored its last four opponents 15-4 while winning all four games—all on the road.

Burrows, who also scored Vancouver's first goal of the game, got the winner when he backhanded the puck past Antti Niemi's glove, atoning for a holding-the-stick penalty late in regulation that led to Ryane Clowe's tying goal for San Jose.

The teams combined for three goals in the final 2:13 of regulation, with Clowe tying it on a power play with 21 seconds left and Niemi off for an extra attacker.

"It was a very hard game played along the boards, very competitive," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "The games against them have been very tight. Special teams have worked in their favour, not ours, and it's probably been the difference in the ones we lost."

Clowe also scored in the second period.

Daniel Sedin had a power-play goal with 1:49 left and assisted on Burrows' goal in NHL-leading Vancouver's fourth straight victory—all on the road. Sedin has 35 goals and 51 assists for a career-high 86 points in 69 games this season.

Sami Salo and Mason Raymond also scored for the Canucks, 11 points ahead of second-place Detroit in the Western Conference and 12 ahead of third-place San Jose.

"Tonight you could say they were the better team on the ice," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "But at the end of the night, our goaltender kept us in the game and we found a way to win."

Vancouver beat San Jose for the third time in four games this season, after letting leads of 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 slip away.

Torrey Mitchell tied it 3-3 for San Jose with 2:13 left, splitting a pair of defenders and flicking the puck past Schneider for his first goal since Dec. 16,

Clowe and Devin Setoguchi had second-period goals for the Sharks, who failed to score on an overtime power play.

Schneider stopped Clowe, Kyle Wellwood and Joe Pavelski in the shootout. Niemi, making his 23rd consecutive start, held off Raymond in the first round before Burrows came through for the Canucks.

"Obviously it's nice, especially when you have been in the box when you are one up in the last minute of the game," Burrows said. "It's not a spot you want to be in. The coach believed in me so I could get it done and redeem myself."

In the first period, Burrows outduelled San Jose's Dany Heatley in front of the Sharks' net, took a pass from Sedin and fired the puck past Niemi with 6:35 left. Henrik Sedin also had an assist on the play.

Salo made it 2-0 on a power play with 1:34 left in the first.

San Jose then scored twice in a 1:07 span.

Setoguchi knocked his own deflection past Schneider less than a minute into the second period and Clowe followed that up with his 20th of the season. Pavelski nearly added a third 40 seconds after, that but the puck hit the left post and bounced away.

"We're on our end still, fighting for our playoff lives, so we have to get as many points as we can," San Jose captain Joe Thornton said. "The atmosphere was great, it was an exciting game to be a part of. We just kept coming back. It's a good sign."

NOTES: Thornton's assist on Setoguchi's goal was his 400th with San Jose. ... Play was stopped briefly in the first period when the arena clock went from 5.2 seconds left to 5:02. ... San Jose defenceman Dan Boyle (upper body) sat out his sixth straight game.

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