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Rangers top Coyotes for Vigneault's 500th win

by Jerry Brown /

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault is the newest member of the NHL's 500-win club.

Rick Nash scored his NHL-leading 35th goal to spark a four-goal third period and lead the New York Rangers to a 5-1 victory against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday, giving Vigneault the milestone win.

He is the 21st coach in NHL history to reach 500 victories.

"I've been very fortunate to coach some real good players and work with great staff and management over the years," Vigneault said. "That's the key to a coach's success."

One key to victory on Saturday was the play of the Rangers' backup goaltender.

Cam Talbot, subbing for injured starter Henrik Lundqvist, made 34 saves and denied Arizona's Tobias Rieder on a penalty shot with 13:40 left and the Rangers leading by a goal. Talbot is 4-1-1 in place of Lundqvist, who isn't expected back until March.

"Cam made some big saves at the right time that permitted us to come out in the third and find some energy and make some plays," Vigneault said. "He's been waiting for an opportunity to prove he can play on a consistent level. It's unfortunate [Lundqvist] went down but it's given Cam an opportunity for more ice time, more games, and he's doing what he's supposed to do and that's give us a chance."

The Rangers made the most of the chance. Nash pounced on a bouncing puck that eluded Arizona defenseman Keith Yandle, skated into the right circle and beat Smith to the short side with a snap shot from the dot that pinged off the post and into the net 79 seconds into the third period.

"It was kind of a lucky play," said Nash, who has six goals and 12 points in his past 15 games against the Coyotes. "It was a good play by (defenseman Kevin) Klein to get it up and the puck was really bouncing and it bounced over Yandle's stick and I just put it in from there."

The Coyotes had a chance to tie it when Rieder was taken down by New York's Matt Hunwick on a partial breakaway. But Talbot closed the pads on Rieder's backhander to keep the Rangers ahead.

"If I score, the game goes in the other direction, maybe," Rieder said.

Instead, the Rangers took control of the game. Rookie Kevin Hayes made it 3-1 with an unassisted shorthanded goal at 11:54 and defenseman Marc Staal and ex-Coyote Lee Stempniak scored insurance goals for New York, which is 6-1-1 in its past eight games. The Rangers remained four points behind the first-place New York Islanders in the Metropolitan Division. The teams meet Monday on Long Island.

"We're scoring in bunches right now," Hayes said. "It's not a bad problem to have."

Chris Kreider scored in the first minute of the second period for the Rangers and Antoine Vermette matched him for the Coyotes. But Arizona, who was burned by a hat trick from 31-goal scorer Joe Pavelski in a 4-2 home loss against the San Jose Sharks on Friday, was done in by another of the league's elite scorers.

Arizona (20-30-7) has lost seven in a row at home and is 5-13-4 in its past 22 games at Gila River Arena. Mike Smith made 28 saves for the Coyotes.

"The work is there, the guys are trying hard but we need some execution," coach Dave Tippett said. "We need to finish some plays. There are mistakes getting made at critical times and a team like New York is going to capitalize."

After a scoreless first period, the Rangers needed all of 55 seconds of the second to grab a lead. Kreider took a Derek Stephan pass on the wing at center ice, flew past a flat-footed Michael Stone, cut across the crease and dumped a backhander past Smith at the far post.

Kreider's 13th of the season gave the Rangers the first goal for the 34th time in 54 games this season. New York has scored first in 18 of its past 24 games.

The Coyotes tied the game at 6:33. Lucas Lessio whiffed on a free puck in the crease, but he ran down the puck and got it to Oliver Ekman-Larsson for a shot that Talbot saved. However, Vermette went to his knees to get inside position on New York's Tanner Glass and banged home the rebound. Vermette's 12th goal was his third in the past 21 games.

The goalies took over for the rest of the period. Smith stoned Kreider on another backhand chance, denied Nash in the slot and stopped Miller from in tight. Talbot made the save of the period in the final minute, denying Rieder with a quick-reaction stop.

"We weren't happy with the second period," Staal said. "They outchanced us and got a lot of looks we normally don't give up. Talbot made some big saves to keep us in the game. "

"It's not an easy job to step into Henrik Lundqvist's crease. You're expected to be at a high level and he's handled it great. We have a ton of confidence in him and hopefully he keeps on a roll for us."

After Nash put the Rangers up and Talbot stopped the penalty shot, the Coyotes had another chance to tie with a power play. But Oliver-Ekman Larsson had his stick snap on a one-timer and Hayes raced the length of the ice before beating Smith to extend his points streak to five games.

"I actually wanted to dish to (teammate Tanner) Glass right away but their guy had no stick from our blue line back and he really couldn't do much," Hayes said. "He went down early and I just waited him out."

From there, the countdown to win No. 500 for Vigneault was on.

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