Ryan Kesler key in Canucks victory

Canucks' Ryan Kesler (right) celebrates his goal with teammate Mason Raymond during Monday's game...

Canucks' Ryan Kesler (right) celebrates his goal with teammate Mason Raymond during Monday's game at Rogers Arena. (Ben Nelms/Reuters)

HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:48 AM ET

VANCOUVER - Ryan Kesler didn't wait long to play the difference-maker.

There he was Monday, back with the Vancouver Canucks after missing the last 19 games with a fractured right foot. And despite taking part in just two gameday skates since stepping back onto the ice last week, the star centre didn't look to miss a beat.

In his second return from a major injury this season, Kesler got on the scoreboard just 7:26 into the game against the Phoenix Coyotes. Then Cory Schneider did the rest — with props, of course, to the Canucks' dump-and-chase suffocating style of play.

Making his 11th straight start, the goaltender picked up his fifth shutout of the season as Vancouver skated away with a 2-0 victory — their third in a row.

"It was all about my teammates tonight," Schneider said. "This is what they call a system shutout.

"They didn't have a whole lot, maybe just one or two chances. I can't say enough of how well the guys played in front of me tonight."

As for Kesler, he finished with 15:51 of ice time, four shots on net and three hits to go with his winning goal.

"I'm another piece of the puzzle," he said. "There's a bunch of pieces on this team and when we have them all together, we're a good team."

They certainly looked the part Monday night at Rogers Arena, at least when it came to chances. With 41 shots on goaltender Mike Smith, it was a surprise Vancouver didn't finish with more than two goals — the second one being a shorthanded empty netter by Dan Hamhuis.

"We were ready to play," captain Henrik Sedin said. "We got a lot of pucks to the net but Mike is a great goalie. It's tough getting to him but I thought we did a good job tonight."

The win moves the Canucks four points up on the Minnesota Wild for the Northwest Division lead while snapping the Coyotes' three-game streak.

Less than a week ago, there were some lamenting the fact that the Canucks didn't add enough offensive punch to their lineup at the trade deadline — even after acquiring centre Derek Roy. That was, of course, all before Kesler returned.

Now, they have their second line centre back, and fittingly enough, he had the only goal of the game up until the final minute.

Kesler opened the scoring on an unusual play in the first period. On a rush that began as a four-on-one for the Canucks, Zack Kassian instead stopped and fed the puck back to the point. But Kevin Bieksa fanned on his shot, then it went off Mason Raymond's stick, off the post and bounced to Kesler in front of the net. He finished the play past Smith for his second goal of season.

"That was a nice pass off the post I told him, laid it up for me and got my confidence early," Kesler said of Raymond.

The Canucks looked to have doubled their lead late in the second period but Henrik's buzzer-beating marker was called back after a video review showed he kicked the puck into the net.

Hamhuis sealed it when he got credit for an own goal by Phoenix with their goalie pulled. The Coyotes finished 0-for-three on the power play, including a late two-man advantage while the Canucks were 0-for-two.

Defenceman Keith Ballard also returned after missing five games with a minor fracture in his foot.

The Canucks head onto the road for five straight starting Wednesday in Calgary.


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