Alain Vigneault became the 21st coach in NHL history to win 500 games behind the bench with his Rangers’ convincing 5-1 victory over Arizona on Saturday.
New York’s win made Vigneault the fourth-fastest coach to 500 wins in NHL history – a feat he accomplished in just 942 career games behind the bench with the Rangers, Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens.
Vigneault guided the Rangers to the Stanley Cup final is his first season in New York last year, and has them poised to return to the playoffs again.
He has a .611 winning percentage with the Rangers, but his best years came in Vancouver as coach of two Presidents’ Trophy-winning squads.
The Quebec City native started his NHL coaching career in Montreal as a raw 36-year-old in 1997 after serving as an assistant with the Ottawa Senators. The Canadiens’ penchant for hiring French coaches may have opened the door for Vigneault, but he quickly proved to be worthy of the position. He spent 266 games behind the Habs bench and won 109 contests before he was fired during the 2000-01 season.
After a lengthy hiatus, Vigneault won the Jack Adams Award in 2007 in his first year in Vancouver and has been a finalist for the award two more times.
Win No. 500 moves Vigneault past Terry Murray on the all-time wins list and ties him with legendary Canadiens coach Toe Blake for 20th. Vigneault will leapfrog Pat Burns’ 501 wins next before he starts nipping at the heels of active coaches Paul Maurice, Mike Babcock and Darryl Sutter.
Vigneault also joins some rare company with the number of games it took him to reach 500. Scotty Bowman set the gold standard with 500 wins in 825 games, while second place Mike Babcock hit win No. 500 back in December after 895 games.
The Rangers won Vigneault's 500th game handily, though it could have gone either way after the first period.
Chris Kreider opened the scoring to start the second period and Arizona answered back six minutes later. It took league goal scoring leader Rick Nash to break things open with an early third-period goal to make it 2-1.
And while the win came in Arizona, you wouldn't know it from the number of Rangers fans in the stands on Saturday.