NEW YORK, N.Y. – Chris Kreider did just about everything right on the ice, and off it, too.
Kreider scored a career-best three goals, and Rick Nash added a goal and two assists as the New York Rangers spoiled the return of former coach John Tortorella by rolling to a 5-2 victory over his Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
Kreider netted two in the first period for his first NHL multigoal game, and finished his hat trick by tipping in Anton Stralman’s shot with his back to the net at 9:38 of the third. Kreider had scored only five goals—three this season—in his first 43 career games.
After a tough rookie season under Tortorella, in which he spent a large chunk of time playing in the AHL, Kreider didn’t reveal any extra satisfaction that his breakout game occurred against this opponent.
“I would have struggled trusting me, too,” Kreider said of last season. “I was playing through an injury. There are no hard feelings, I learned a lot from him.
“I had a pretty positive experience on the whole. At the end of the day, it’s two points and we’re happy to come away with the win.”
Nash and defenceman Michael Del Zotto connected in the second against starting goalie Roberto Luongo and backup Eddie Lack to turn the much-anticipated game into a rout.
David Booth and Daniel Sedin scored for Vancouver, which couldn’t build off a 5-2 win at Ottawa on Thursday. The Canucks are 3-5-4 in their last 12 games.
“I thought we played better in the games we lost prior (to Thursday),” Tortorella said.
Rangers rookie backup Cam Talbot was sharp again in spelling Henrik Lundqvist, and made 35 saves in his first home start to improve to 6-1. He has allowed only 11 goals in eight outings.
“I gain a lot of confidence, and confidence in the guys in front of me, too,” Talbot said. “They’ve been playing really great in front of me. I’m just trying to stop the puck and not let them down because they’re doing a great job of getting me in games and getting me leads.”
New York bounced back from a 3-2 loss at Boston on Friday, that had new coach Alain Vigneault angry, and snapped a three-game losing streak at home even though they were outshot 37-24.
Fans unleashed taunts of “Tor-tor-ella” as the final minutes ticked down.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a little weird for me coming back here,” Tortorella said. “Once the game starts, it’s about playing and trying to find a way to get a win. That’s my job, to try to get some traction with this hockey club. Once that starts, it’s just, ‘Let’s go.'”
Vigneault got a bit of satisfaction in the coaching matchup Saturday as he earned a win over his former team that let him go after a first-round playoff ouster last season. Watching Daniel Sedin and twin brother Henrik wearing opposing uniforms provided quite a wakeup call.
“When I saw the twins have a couple of their moments out there, I knew we were playing against the Canucks,” Vigneault said. “They’re a good team, but what we had was some great bounces.
“A couple of our players made some great defensive efforts, and when that wasn’t there, Cam made some great saves.”
The fiery Tortorella will have another chance to knock off the Rangers, whom he led for 4 1-2 seasons, when they visit Vancouver on April 1. He declined to comment about Kreider, who played only 28 games with the Rangers last season.
The Rangers didn’t rest after grabbing a 2-0 edge in the first period, and quickly stretched their lead in the opening seconds of the middle frame.
It took just one deflected shot by Nash 17 seconds in to make it 3-0 and end the day for Luongo, who stopped only seven of 10 shots. Lack came on and gave up Del Zotto’s second of the season at 11:04 during a power play that made it a four-goal lead.
Luongo, who made his season-high eighth straight start, could be in line for a day off Sunday when the Canucks visit Carolina in another matinee.
“It’s always hard to either get pulled or to give up a lot of goals,” Luongo said. “I’ve just got to be better and try to come up with more saves.”
The Canucks gave up two total power-play goals after allowing only two in their previous 14 games. They hadn’t yielded two in one game in 16 contests, dating to Oct. 22.
Talbot was seeking his third straight shutout—all on consecutive Saturdays—but his bid ended when Booth got Vancouver within 4-1 with 4:10 left in the second.
Despite being outshot 14-9 and committing several turnovers, the Rangers headed into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead.
Vancouver had a gaffe of its own at the right point, and the puck came to Nash, who kept the puck in the Canucks’ zone and swept a picture pass onto the stick of Kreider, who was alone in the slot. Kreider quickly let go a shot that got past Luongo to make it 1-0 with 7:23 left in the first.
Alex Edler, who didn’t get the puck out along the boards, received an earful from Tortorella when he returned to the bench after the goal.
The Canucks’ biggest mistake came with 3:28 remaining when forward Zack Kassian flung the puck over the glass and was called for delay of game. Kreider needed only 22 seconds to double the lead with his second of the day.
“We just make a huge mistake 5 feet from the blue line, and it ends up in the back of our net,” Tortorella said. “Throw one out of the rink, power-play goal and again we’re climbing the hill.”
NOTES: Vigneault replaced defenceman John Moore in the lineup with Del Zotto, who had been scratched for two straight games and five of eight, and benched forward Taylor Pyatt for Derek Dorsett, who had missed two games because of a sprained wrist. … Edler didn’t play the rest of the first period after Kreider’s first goal. … The Canucks fell to 8-7-3 when allowing the first goal. The Rangers are 13-1 when scoring first.