Ryan Kesler is back and that makes the Vancouver Canucks better.

If there was any doubt about that, Kesler gave us a reminder early in Monday night's 2-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at Rogers Arena.

He created a scoring chance off the rush on his first shift and then scored Vancouver's opening goal at the 7:26 mark of the first as the Canucks recorded their third straight win.

Of course, having Cory Schneider in goal is helping, too.

Schneider turned aside 19 shots to record his fifth shutout of the season and fourth in the last nine games.

Kesler was something of a surprise starter considering he had not even participated in a full practice after missing 19 games with a broken foot.

"I played only 4 minutes?" he said in a TV interview after the first period. "It felt like 14."

After the game, he insisted he felt just fine.

"Obviously when you get one early it helps," Kesler said. "The first period was tough getting back into it. But after that I felt good. It kind of fell into place on the first shift. That is kind of what you want. You want the puck with speed, you want to get chance to shoot and bang some bodies."

The win improved Vancouver's record to 22-11-6 and moved the Canucks four points up on the Minnesota Wild in the Northwest Division standings. They are now 10 points above the playoff bar in the Western Conference. Barring a total collapse in their final nine games, they are in.

The Canucks dominated much of the first period and at one point had a 14-1 edge in shots. They in fact carried the play for most of the game, outshooting the Coyotes 42-19.

Kesler's goal came after the Canucks appeared to have messed up a 4-on-1 rush. Winger Zack Kassian carried the puck deep into the Phoenix zone and for some reason threw the puck back to the point, where defenceman Kevin Bieksa didn't get much on a shot. Bieksa's shot missed the net, but winger Mason Raymond was able redirect it off the far post. The puck was sitting near the goal line when Kesler poked it into the net for his second goal of the season.