GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -After struggling through the first three weeks of the season, the New York Rangers seemed to be searching for an identity as they set out on a four-game West Coast trip.
They may have found it in a dominating 7-3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.
Sparked by linemates Martin Straka and Jaromir Jagr, the Rangers spotted the Coyotes an early 1-0 lead and then dominated play the rest of the game.
Straka had two goals and an assist and Jagr added a goal and three assists as the Rangers improved to 5-5 on the season.
"It's huge," coach Tom Renney said. "We feel we can compete with anybody in the league. We didn't come out of the gate at all like we wanted to, and we want to rectify that.
"We happen to be on a good road trip here that will allow us, we think, to really galvanize as a group and obviously get the wins that we're looking for, and really kind of kick-start us into the balance of the season," Renney said. "That's our objective."
New York defenseman Aaron Ward had a career-high three points, on a goal and two assists, and Brendan Shanahan scored his team-leading ninth goal.
Rookies Matt Jones and Patrick Fischer scored their first NHL goals for Phoenix, which has lost five of its last six games.
"Everything went wrong tonight," Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris said. "When we get down one or two goals, we've got to get that mentality that we've got to come back. We've got to get one and go get the other one, and it seems to go the other way for us."
Phoenix started fast, with Jones scoring at 2:18 of the first period to put the Coyotes ahead 1-0.
"I really don't know what to say other than we played a good first 10 minutes," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We got the lead and then we got on our heels."
The goal only woke up the Rangers, who dominated the rest of the way. Jagr said the team felt less pressure than it would have in Madison Square Garden.
"We said, 'Let's have fun,"' Jagr said. "It's tough to do that at home. You're down one goal and you want to rush it back. You don't play with the patience you should. On the road, it's different. You've still got a lot of time. You've got 50 minutes left."
The Rangers spent much of that time controlling the puck - and firing it at beleaguered Phoenix goaltender David LeNeveu, who allowed seven goals on 35 shots.
New York tied it 1-1 on Straka's fifth goal of the season at 10:06. Michael Nylander made a crisp cross-ice pass to Straka, who was all alone on the left post and flipped the puck past LeNeveu.
The Rangers put the game away with four goals in a 10:33 span of the second period. They led 2-0 when Matt Cullen scored at 1:13 of the second period.
Then Jagr scored a trademark goal, swatting in a rebound of Ward's shot at 4:23.
"I felt we had more patience," Jagr said. "We didn't rush anything."
Straka's second goal of the night came when LeNeveu left a rebound in the crease. Straka plucked it out of a crowd and backhanded it into the net, giving the Rangers a 4-1 lead.
New York made it 5-1 on Petr Prucha's second goal of the season, at 11:46.
The Rangers outshot Phoenix 14-7 in the first period and 16-7 in the second.
New York iced it on Ward's goal at 4:32 of the third period, his second of the season.
Gretzky, facing his former team for the first time as a coach, said he was impressed with the way the Rangers controlled play.
"We did not skate whatsoever," Gretzky said. "That team was hungrier than we were and deserved to win, fair and square. They're very smart and they skate well."
Notes: Gretzky spent the final three seasons of his career with New York, retiring in a Rangers sweater in April 1999. ... The Rangers made their first trip to the desert since Dec. 29, 2003, when they beat Phoenix 3-2 in overtime. ... Coyotes RW Shane Doan (back) was scratched for the second consecutive game. ... Referee Don Koharski left the game in third period after being hit in the face with a puck.
|Matt Jones (1) ASST: Owen Nolan (3), Mike Comrie (7)|
1 - 0 PHX
|Martin Straka (5) ASST: Michael Nylander (11), Jaromir Jagr (13)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Matt Cullen (3) ASST: Aaron Ward (3), Jaromir Jagr (14)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Jaromir Jagr (3) ASST: Aaron Ward (4), Martin Straka (7)|
3 - 1 NYR
|Martin Straka (6) ASST: Michael Nylander (12), Marek Malik (3)|
4 - 1 NYR
|Petr Prucha (2) ASST: Darius Kasparaitis (1), Adam Hall (2)|
5 - 1 NYR
|Aaron Ward (2) ASST: Matt Cullen (3)|
6 - 1 NYR
|Patrick Fischer (1) ASST: NONE|
6 - 2 NYR
|Fredrik Sjostrom (2) ASST: Zbynek Michalek (2)|
6 - 3 NYR
|PPG - Brendan Shanahan (9) ASST: Jaromir Jagr (15), Michal Rozsival (4)|
7 - 3 NYR
|Derek Morris Tripping|
|Ladislav Nagy Holding against Michal Rozsival|
|Darius Kasparaitis Tripping against Mike Comrie|
|Ryan Hollweg Charging against Dave Scatchard|
|Ryan Hollweg Unsportsmanlike conduct|
|Nick Boynton Fighting (maj) against Ryan Hollweg|
|Ryan Hollweg Fighting (maj) against Nick Boynton|
|Fedor Tyutin Hooking|
|Marek Malik Hooking|
|Ladislav Nagy Hi-sticking against Darius Kasparaitis|
|Darius Kasparaitis Holding|