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Yandle scores to help Rangers defeat Coyotes

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle always envisions himself scoring a goal as part of his pregame routine.

Actually doing it in a game against his former team, the one that traded him last season, is a place his imagination had never gone before Thursday.

Yandle turned his pregame vision into reality by scoring an emotional power-play goal in the third period against the Arizona Coyotes, helping the Rangers to a 4-1 win at Madison Square Garden.

"I wanted to make an impact in tonight's game and help our team win," Yandle said. "We had a lot of guys who played well, and I was lucky enough to score."

Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves for the Rangers (5-2-1), who have won two straight after losing three in a row, including two in regulation.

The Coyotes (3-3-1) have lost four in a row, including three in regulation.

New York scored the final four goals of the game after falling behind 1-0 in the first period. The Rangers scored three times in the third period, including Yandle's goal against his former team.

Arizona selected Yandle in the fourth round of the 2005 NHL Draft and he played parts of nine seasons, a total of 558 games, with the Coyotes before he was traded to the Rangers on March 1.

As Yandle expected, there was very little routine about this game, his first against the Coyotes, including his preparation beginning with dinner Wednesday with several former Arizona teammates at his favorite restaurant in Manhattan's Meatpacking District.

"It was one of those things I tried not to think about it too much, tried not to let it get in my head, but it was just seeing guys out there that I hadn't seen in a while, playing against them, seeing the coach, it was a little bit emotional," Yandle said. "After the first couple of shifts, it was game time and it was a fun game to play in."

And score in, even if he needed some help from players on his former team to get his first goal of the season.

It came at 6:24 of the third period off a double deflection. Yandle's slap shot from the left point hit Coyotes defensemen Nicklas Grossmann and Connor Murphy before it got past goalie Mike Smith.

"I was just trying to get anything at the net," Yandle said. "[Rangers coach Alain Vigneault] talked about it between periods, just getting pucks to the net, causing traffic and rebounds. I was just trying to get it there. Got lucky. It hit a few guys and went in."

Rangers forward Kevin Hayes also cashed in on a lucky bounce for what became the game-winning goal at 2:35 of the third period.

Smith's puck handling gaffe behind the Coyotes net led to Hayes having an open net from the goal line off the left post. He used his backhand to roof a shot into the corner while Smith was trying to scramble back to the crease.

"You make a mistake outside the net, and then they get a lucky bounce on the power play," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "It's the difference in the game."

Rangers left wings Chris Kreider and Rick Nash each scored his first goal of the season. For Nash, it was his 700th career point, even though he didn't actually put the puck into the net.

Nash was credited with the goal because he was hooked on a breakaway with an empty net at 19:17 of the third period.

"He's the only guy who can score without scoring," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said.

Nash was laughing about how he got his goal too.

"The way things were going, yeah, it felt pretty standard," he said.

Nash led New York with 24 shots on goal coming into the game. He felt comfortable with his game, that he was in the right place and doing the right things, but he just wasn't getting the bounces to go his way.

"I've said all along I've been feeling good, my game is strong, I feel fast," Nash said. "The chances are there. I think it's a matter of they're going to come."

Kreider got the Rangers on the board at 10:06 of the second period when he used his speed to get inside position on Murphy and redirect forward Mats Zuccarello's pass past Smith. Zuccarello got the puck from Staal in transition off a diagonal pass through the neutral zone.

"It was quick transition, a fast-paced goal, like we like to play," Vigneault said.

The Coyotes gave the Rangers fits for two periods despite getting off to a sluggish start. They didn't get a shot on goal until captain Shane Doan put the puck on Lundqvist from the blue line at 14:46 of the first period.

Defenseman Klas Dahlbeck gave Arizona a 1-0 lead on its second shot of the game.

The Coyotes responded with a strong second period, when they outshot the Rangers 14-10. They had nothing to show for it because Lundqvist stopped every shot and Kreider scored to make it 1-1.

New York took over early in the third period. Arizona had 16 shots in the third, but 10 came after New York had built its two-goal lead on the goals by Hayes and Yandle.

"We had a 1-0 lead after the first, but probably didn't deserve that," Doan said. "We didn't really take advantage of it either."

Instead, the Coyotes watched their former teammate score against them, contributing to their fourth consecutive loss. Worse yet, Arizona lost center Antoine Vermette to an upper-body injury in the second period. He never returned and is considered day-to-day, Tippett said.

"It's disappointing," Doan said. "We've got to get some more offense out of a lot of other guys. If we can do that, we'll be OK, but we've got to be better than we've been."

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