VANCOUVER – Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault wasn't coming down too hard on his team after a win, especially when victories have been so hard to come by of late.
"It's the old saying … never critique a win," Vigneault said.
Daniel Sedin wasn't as kind, not after Vancouver twice let last-place Columbus back into the game, and not after giving up 18 third-period shots before hanging on to a 4-3 victory against the Blue Jackets at Rogers Arena on Saturday night.
"I'm happy we won, but it shouldn't have been that close," Daniel said after his second goal of the game, on a power play, with 4:41 left became the game winner when James Wisniewski answered less then a minute later. "We didn't play that good tonight, but we were able to squeeze out a win anyways. We gave them a lot of chances. We need to tighten up. We can't keep giving up over 30 shots. That is unacceptable."
Despite surrendering 36 shots, there were positives as the Canucks wrapped up a seven-game home stand with just its third win in nine games.
They included a second-straight 2-for-3 performance from a power play that only had one goal in the previous 10 games, but got one on an end-to-end rush from Alexander Edler in the second period, and Daniel's 30th goal of the season on a rebound.
"When you score a goal or two you get confidence and all of a sudden the passes are on the stick and you are moving for each other," Daniel said.
The Canucks also got 33 saves from backup Cory Schneider, who was making his second start in 17 days with Roberto Luongo struggling of late. He made 17 in the final period, including an awkward one off Prospal at the final buzzer that had him looking behind him, to improve to 9-0-1 since mid-December.
"It wasn't the prettiest game, but we responded to a few goals and kept pushing and were able to hang on to it at the end," said Schneider. "You can't turn your season around on one win, but hopefully it's a start in the right direction."
The Canucks, who finished the home stand 3-4-0, also got a goal from David Booth to stay within six points behind St. Louis atop the Western Conference. That it came against a struggling Columbus team didn't matter – to most.
Vinny Prospal opened the scoring 7:44 in, and Jack Johnson also scored and set up Wisniewski's late goal for the last-place Blue Jackets, who have dropped four straight since their only four-game win streak of the season.
"It's been the story of the year,” said Wisniewski, who was in the penalty box on Sedin’s game winner. “I don't know how many times I've said it. We just come up a little too short sometimes. You can't say we didn't play hard, didn't play well."
That includes goalie Steve Mason, who returned after missing three games with a cut on his blocker hand that required 23 stitches and finished with 34 saves, but saw a personal four-game win streak – his longest in a year – snapped.
"I got better as the game went on, the adrenaline kind of takes away whatever pain is there,” said Mason, who credits new, bigger equipment for his recent 7-4-1 run. He even got an assist on Prospal's goal 7:44 in, but was hung out to dry on the last two power play goals, especially Edler's in the second period.
In fact, Mason didn't get much help on any of the four goals.
After Mason made a breakaway glove save off Zack Kassian's backhand deke, Booth tied the game on a rebound after being allowed to walk around him in tight. Sedin scored his first 79 seconds later on a backdoor tap in after a cross-crease pass from twin brother Henrik, and Edler was allowed to wind up from behind his own net and skate through four Blue Jackets to make it 3-1 on a breakaway.
"Before you know it, he's right on top of you," said Mason. "Something like that doesn't happen very often. It was a bit of miscommunication and it happens. It's unfortunate I was unable to come up with the save."
Defensemen John Moore and Nikita Nikitin both appeared to play the right side, allowing Edler to skate in alone and snap the puck through Mason's legs.
"Poor communication," said interim coach Todd Richards, who praised his team's effort, but lamented a couple of mental mistakes that wasted it. "It looked like Nikitin, who's usually a right defenseman, it looks as Edler's getting close to our blue line it looks as if he glances left at his partner, when his partner was standing right next to him. The breakdown there was just a simple breakdown."
Schneider got the only assist for leaving the puck for Edler behind the net, but couldn't stop Johnson's one-timer from the point after rookie Ryan Johansen, who is from the Vancouver suburbs, won an offensive zone faceoff and the hard shot deflected over his blocker with four minutes left in the second period.
The Blue Jackets' best chance to tie came on a good looking second power play one minute into the third, but Schneider made a nice glove stop on a Johnson blast, Sami Salo blocked Prospal's rebound chance at an open net with the goalie scrambling and Nikitin's angle shot was tipped off the far post.
Schneider also got the blocker on Ryan Russell's shot from the slot with eight minutes left and a turnover by Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev, but couldn't get the blocker on Wisniewski’s one-timer through a crowd late.
Thanks to the power play, it didn't matter.
"We've been really good the last few games," said Edler, who also assisted on Daniel's goal with a hard point shot. "We've been generating more chances and we've been better on the faceoffs, too. The power play's been good."