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Gretzky coaches Coyotes to 5-1 win over Rangers on return to MSG

NEW YORK - Wayne Gretzky spoke in a hoarse voice through a wide smile and even mustered a few laughs.

The flu and laryngitis notwithstanding, the Hall of Famer's return to Madison Square Garden could not have been better.

Illness, not anger, robbed Coach Gretzky of his voice. He didn't have to yell at his team Sunday night as the Phoenix Coyotes rolled to a 5-1 rout of the New York Rangers.

Back in the building where he played the final game of his brilliant career eight years earlier, Gretzky stood behind the Coyotes bench for the first time in New York and left with a most satisfying win.

"I don't know if it was revenge," Gretzky said. "They're a good team. Over 82 games, you're going to have games where it doesn't go your way. We got a couple lucky bounces and did some good things but I know the next game they play they'll be a much different team."

Joel Perrault scored twice and added an assist in his second game of the season, and Ilya Bryzgalov rode a strong start after a rare day off and made 34 saves. The Coyotes earned their second win in two days and third on a six-game road trip that has two stops left.

The Coyotes entered with the fewest goals scored in the Western Conference and took on the Rangers, who had allowed a league-low 70. Neither trend held true.

Daniel Carcillo, Radim Vrbata, Fredrik Sjostrom and Perrault scored in the second period when the Coyotes blew the game open with 11 shots. Phoenix hit the four-goal mark for the fourth time in six games.

"Maybe they're eating a lot of carrots," Gretzky said before breaking out in laughter. "Better eyesight."

Not bad for the Coyotes' first visit to the Garden since Oct. 28, 2002. The Rangers had been 9-1 against the franchise, formally the Winnipeg Jets, dating to a win on Jan. 6, 1992.

Gretzky retired as a member of the Rangers on April 18, 1999, after his third season with New York.

"It seems like it's fresh in my mind because I think about it a lot because I wish I could still play," Gretzky said. "Unfortunately I can't because I'm not good enough anymore. I remember the last day here. It's like it happened yesterday."

Perrault, recalled from San Antonio of the AHL this week, had an assist in the Coyotes' 4-1 win at New Jersey in his season debut on Saturday. His power-play goal 3:11 in against the Rangers gave Phoenix a 1-0 lead. Another man-advantage tally with 1:14 left in the second stretched the lead to 5-0.

"I was pretty proud of the way I played yesterday in my first game back since last January," Perrault said. "I was pretty happy with my skill level, and today was even better.

"There was good bounces for the first goal. It's just fun to get it started."

Bryzgalov stopped five shots on New York's first power play, whistled 25 seconds after the opening faceoff, and the Coyotes grabbed the lead on the first shot registered against backup goalie Steve Valiquette.

"It's very important we killed that penalty," Bryzgalov said. "It gave us a little booster. We realized we can play and win the game."

Dan Girardi scored for the Rangers in the third period.

The Coyotes took advantage of sloppy play and the shakiness of Valiquette, who got the start because No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist was out with the flu.

New York outshot Phoenix 11-10 in the first period but trailed 1-0. The Coyotes' shot total didn't change much in the second, but they consistently found the back of the net.

Carcillo, the NHL leader with 145 penalty minutes, got to a loose puck that kicked out in front after miscommunication behind the net between Valiquette and teammate Marc Staal, and fired in his fifth goal at 2:14.

Vrbata pushed the advantage to three 1:16 later with his 13th, taking advantage of a turnover by defenceman Michal Rozsival.

Sjostrom, who had two goals and an assist Saturday, continued his binge with his sixth at 12:34. Perrault then connected again, bringing boos raining down from frustrated fans who watched the Rangers lose for the fifth time in six games (1-4-1), including three straight at home.

The Rangers have allowed 20 of their 75 goals this season in the last four losses, sandwiched around a 1-0 overtime victory against New Jersey a week earlier.

"The second period obviously lost us the game," said Valiquette, who made 21 saves in his fifth outing. "The first three goals, I would say they were team goals. The last two I should have had."

Girardi scored a power-play goal with 8:30 remaining to spoil Bryzgalov's shutout bid. The Coyotes goalie played the first 12 games after being claimed off waivers by Phoenix, before giving way to Mikael Tellqvist on Saturday.

Notes: For the second time this season, Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr had a tooth knocked out. Sjostrom caught him with an elbow in the first period, and the tooth was recovered on the ice by a linesman. ... Gretzky scored 46 of his NHL record 894 goals at MSG - 29 with the Rangers.



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