Members of the Vancouver Canucks celebrate a goal by teammate Ryan Kesler in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo., on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)
DENVER - For a spot starter, Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider has proven to be highly successful.
Schneider stymied and stonewalled the highest scoring team in the NHL, propelling the Canucks to a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.
"He played so well, so confident and smooth in goal," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, whose team won its fifth straight.
Not bad for sitting on the bench for nearly two weeks.
Schneider hardly looked rusty as he stepped in for starter Roberto Luongo, stopping 33 shots and shutting down an Avalanche squad that's averaging 3.5 goals.
"I want to be a guy that they can count on winning games, not just go in there and hope you win," said Schneider, who improved to 3-0 this season. "That's been good and that's all I've wanted. Of course stats, they are what they are, but I think it's more of a reflection of how my team is playing in front of me."
Schneider's attempt at his first career shutout was spoiled late in the third by David Van Der Gulik, who scored his first NHL goal.
"I was trying to get to the net, whack away at garbage rebounds," Van Der Gulik explained. "Schneider was playing great and didn't allow too many. But I managed to knock it in with my backhand as I was falling down."
The Canucks had things working efficiently on the power play, scoring all three goals on the man advantage. Ryan Kesler got it rolling in the first period with Henrik Sedin and Raffi Torres later following suit.
"Our power play did what it was supposed to do," Kesler said. "And our (penalty kill) did the job, too. That's why we won tonight—our specialty teams."
Colorado's top offensive threat Chris Stewart was bottled up most of the night, snapping his streak of at least a point in eight straight games. In that stretch, Stewart had eight goals and six assists.
Peter Budaj stopped 33 shots filling in for the injured Craig Anderson, who's out indefinitely with a knee injury.
Sedin scored an imaginative goal in the second period. Standing on the side of the net and with no angle, he banked the puck off the back of Budaj.
It was Sedin's second goal of the season and gave the Canucks a 2-0 lead, more than enough for Schneider. Torres added an insurance goal early in the third period by redirecting Aaron Rome's shot past a screened Budaj.
Vancouver started fast, scoring barely three minutes in when Kesler beat Budaj with a slap shot to the glove side. Kesler's fifth goal of the season was set up by the passing of Daniel Sedin and Alexander Edler.
The pressure from the Canucks only intensified from there, forcing Avalanche coach Joe Sacco to burn his timeout early just to settle down his squad.
Budaj faced 18 shots in the opening period, stopping a wide open Kesler moments before his goal.
"He played very solid tonight," Kesler said. "We probably should have had six seven goals tonight, but he stood on his head."
The Avalanche had scored 11 goals in the last two games, but struggled to get anything going against the top team in the Northwest Division.
"We weren't ourselves," Avalanche centre Ryan O'Reilly said. "We didn't come out with that edge we usually do. We didn't take it as we were playing a first-place team, which we have to do every night. We weren't doing the little details right. We have to rethink and get back to doing that."
Canucks forward Rick Rypien sat out the sixth and final game of a suspension for making contact with a fan during a game at Minnesota on Oct. 19. Rypien was headed to the locker-room after being assessed a double minor for roughing and 10-minute misconduct when he reached up and grabbed a fan applauding at the railing.
He's scheduled to return Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings.
Notes: Canucks F Guillaume Desbiens broke his hand in a first-period fight with Colorado's Cody McLeod and is out indefinitely. ... Colorado D Kevin Shattenkirk was recalled from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League and made his NHL debut Thursday. ... Avalanche Ds Kyle Cumiskey and Adam Foote were scratches with head injuries. Foote has missed the last five games.