Coyotes open trip with shutout loss to Canucks

VANCOUVER (AP) — Ryan Kesler scored in his return to the lineup after a 20-game absence, Cory Schneider made 19 saves and the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 2-0 on Monday night.

Kesler returned from a foot fracture he sustained in his first game back after shoulder and wrist surgeries last summer.

Kesler scored at 7:26 of the first period on what looked to be a failed odd-man rush. Kevin Bieksa took a pass at the point from Zack Kassian but fanned on his shot. However, the puck came right to Mason Raymond at the side of the net, who bounced it off the post right to Kesler, who scored.

Schneider picked up his fifth shutout of the season, tying Phoenix’s Mike Smith and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne for first in the NHL. It was his 11th consecutive start and his ninth career shutout.

Schneider and the Canucks had to kill off a penalty with just over a minute left in regulation when Kesler took a tripping penalty in the offensive zone. But Keith Yandle missed a pass from Antoine Vermette and the puck went the distance for a short-handed empty-net goal credited to defenseman Dan Hamhuis.

Canucks blue-liner Jason Garrison went off with 22 seconds to play, giving Phoenix a short 6-on-3 advantage, but Schneider, Alex Burrows, Hamhuis and Jannik Hansen kept the puck out of the Vancouver goal.

Vancouver moved four points up on Minnesota in the Northwest Division standings, having gone 9-2-0 in its past 11 games, including three straight wins.

Smith stopped 40 shots for the Coyotes, who had their three-game win streak ended and missed a chance to edge closer to the Red Wings for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. It was their first regulation loss in seven games.

Despite the low score, there were a few quality scoring chances that kept the 18,910 fans at Rogers Arena in their seats.

Martin Hanzal had Phoenix’s fourth and fifth shots of the game, getting two cracks at Schneider just outside the blue paint with about seven minutes to go in the first period. But the Vancouver netminder held his ground, keeping the Canucks up 1-0.

Hanzal had the first good scoring opportunity of the second period as well, coming almost 11 minutes in. He got the puck at the left hashmarks, but Schneider snared his quick snapshot with his glove.

Hanzal had a two-game goal scoring streak snapped.

Daniel Sedin got a good shot off in the slot a minute later, but Smith punched it away with his blocker, keeping the score 1-0.

Perhaps the best save of the game came with just under six minutes to go in the second period. Derek Roy centered a pass to Hansen, but the Danish winger’s one-timer was robbed by Smith’s pad.

Vancouver appeared to score a goal in the dying seconds of the second period on the power play. Henrik Sedin and Burrows crashed the Phoenix net on an Alex Edler point shot to knock the puck past Smith, but a review ruled the goal was scored with a distinct kicking motion and was waved off.

The final shots were 42-19 in favor of Vancouver. The Canucks led 32-15 after two periods … Henrik Sedin had a two-game goal-scoring streak snapped. … The game’s first penalty didn’t come until the 16-minute mark of the second period.