SAN JOSE — It's Cory Schneider's team and it was again his for the most significant start of the season.
When Alain Vigneault hinted his goaltending decision didn't have long-term ramifications because it's about one game — one win to keep the Vancouver Canucks from being swept aside — he didn't have to reference his imaginary coin or sing a familiar refrain about having two good goalies. He started Schneider on Tuesday night because of his ability to rebound from three soft goals Sunday.
"Cory in my opinion is our MVP and one of reasons why we got into the playoffs," said Vigneault. "He's had great bounce-back games and he's been outstanding and our group has total faith in both goaltenders. They've got a lot of faith in Cory and I've got a lot of faith in him and that's why we're going with him."
Schneider rewarded the faith with a stellar 43-save performance in a 4-3 overtime loss that ended the season. And for the starter, it ended in cruel fashion. After making a series of tough saves in the extra session off Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Scott Hannan and Logan Couture, it was a puck he thought he had deflected away that ended the day. Marleau's goal at 13:18 of overtime gave the Sharks their sweep and reason for the Canucks to weep because they seldom played to potential and lost the composure game. In a cruel way, it was fitting the decisive goal came on the power play, even though it came off a questionable boarding call to Daniel Sedin.
"Joe (Thornton) came over the line and had some space and got off a quick shot and I felt it hit my stick and I steered it to the corner and I still don't know what happened," said Schneider. "It kind of dribbled by the net there and I thought it hit me hard enough that I could deflect it into the corner.
"It sucks either way. The group we have here, we should have been better. Their power play has been the difference this series. It sort of broke us down and we ran out of gas. It's just frustrating and seems like a lost year for some of these guys and myself, too."
More importantly, Schneider showed he has more than just the potential to carry a big starting load next season. After allowing three questionable goals in the third period Sunday, he vowed to come back stronger and wanted to send a message to the Sharks and Canucks management. Yes, this is Schneider's team but he needed to erase any doubt. He did just that. A four-minute Sharks power play in the second period in which he foiled T.J. Galiardi, stopped two backhand attempts in tight off Raffi Torres and then dove across to stop Brent Burns off a rebound kept the Sharks from building on a 2-1 lead.
In fact, it took a deft Burns deflection in the slot of a Scott Hannan wrist shot from the point — with Galiardi providing a partial screen — to open scoring at 2:41 of the first period. And when the Sharks kept coming because it was like the penalty-prone Canucks were putting chum in the water for a feeding frenzy. Schneider had to make a power-play save off Torres before a Mason Raymond floater from the point hit Brad Stuart, who was battling for position with Burrows. The goal injected some life into the Canucks. Kesler drew a hooking minor and Raymond then forced Niemi to make a tough right pad save on the power play.
'It was nice to get back in the net and come back from a sub-par effort, but either way the result is the same," shrugged Schneider. "They played hard and deserved to win the series."
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