Radim Vrbata scored three goals as the Phoenix Coyotes won 4-1 to hand Alain Vigneault a defeat in his first National Hockey League regular-season game as coach of the New York Rangers.
The Rangers next face the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 7, as they begin their quest for a first Stanley Cup title in 20 years with nine road games before hosting the Montreal Canadiens Oct. 28 in their home opener at Madison Square Garden.
Vigneault joined the Rangers in June after seven seasons with the Canucks, who lost 4-1 at the San Jose Sharks last night. He was replaced in Vancouver by John Tortorella, who was fired by New York after the team was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.
It’s the first season for a reorganized NHL, which is now divided into Eastern and Western conferences with two divisions in each. The Rangers play in the eight-team Metropolitan Division along with the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils, who lost 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins last night.
The game at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona, last night was the first for the Coyotes since the league in August approved their sale to a group headed by Canadian businessmen George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc, a former Research in Motion Ltd. executive. The transaction ended four years of league ownership.
Kyle Chipchura scored for the Coyotes three minutes, 36 seconds into the game. Marc Staal tied it on a power play in the second period and Vrbata restored the lead for Phoenix less than four minutes later. Vrbata scored again 1:10 into the third period on a power play and made it 4-1 six minutes later.
Also last night, the Boston Bruins, who lost in the Stanley Cup finals in June to the Chicago Blackhawks, got a goal in each period as they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1. The St. Louis Blues beat the Nashville Predators 4-2 and the Florida Panthers won 4-2 at the Dallas Stars.
Two games ended in shootouts as the Washington Capitals beat the Calgary Flames 5-4 and the Kings defeated the Minnesota Wild 3-2.
A full program of 82 games per team is scheduled after the 2012 regular season was shortened to 48 games per team by a labor dispute between players and owners that yielded a 10-year collective bargaining agreement after a 117-day lockout.
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