Chris Kreider nets hat trick as Rangers win in Tortorella’s return
John Tortorella was coaching against his former team for the first time in the building he called home for five years, but to hear Dan Girardi tell it, there was not a sense of added satisfaction in beating Tortorella.
Rather, what pleased the Rangers was what the victory meant for head coach Alain Vigneault, who, like Tortorella, was coaching his first regular season game against his former employer.
“I think it’s more winning it for A.V.,” Dan Girardi said after the Rangers 5-2 rout of the Canucks Saturday afternoon at the Garden. “He’s our coach and it doesn’t matter who’s behind their team. When you’re a coach and you coach [against] your former team … he wanted us to play [well] for him. Vancouver, in preseason, we didn’t have a great game there and we were a little disappointed we couldn’t come up with a better effort. We wanted to play hard for him tonight and got the win.”
Chris Kreider recorded his first NHL hat trick, and Rick Nash and Michael Del Zotto added a goal apiece. Ten Rangers recorded at least one point, led by Kreider and Nash (a goal and two assists) who had three points each.
Cam Talbot made 35 saves. His lone mistakes were David Booth’s goal 15:50 into the second, which cut the Rangers lead to 4-1, and Daniel Sedin’s power-play goal with 2:35 left.
“I try to play as positional as possible,” said Talbot, who improved to 6-1 this season. “Try to cut down the angles, try to flip to the corner for the most part. I think I did leave a few out there in the middle of the ice and the guys did a great job backchecking, clearing those out and taking away [Vancouver’s] second chances. The guys did a great job in front of me today and I try to help them out whenever I can.”
The much-anticipated matchup was, for all intents and purposes, decided 17 seconds into the third period when Nash redirected Derek Stepan’s wrist shot under Roberto Luongo’s legs to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead.
After Nash’s goal, his fourth of the season and his third in three games, Tortorella pulled Luongo for Eddie Lack. Luongo finished with seven saves on 10 shots. The goaltending change did not do much of anything as the Rangers perforated Lack for two goals on 14 shots.
“I’m certainly not putting it on Louie,” Tortorella said of the goaltending switch. “The onus is on all of us here to try and gain some traction, so everyone has to give some skin.”
The irony, of course, is that one of the significant reasons the Rangers left The Tortscoming with two points is that a player whom Tortorella was uncertain about last season played the dominant, power forward game the organization fervently believes he can.
Kreider scored the game’s first two goals against Luongo in a span of 3:17 of the first period and his hat trick-completing marker against Lack extended the lead to 5-1, while skating on a reconstructed top line with Nash and Stepan. The line finished with four goals, four assists, eight points and a collective plus-9rating.
“I struggled trusting me, too,” Kreider said of Tortorella’s mistrust of his game in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. “There’s no hard feelings. I learned a lot from him and, obviously his assistant coaches.”
Kreider was sent down to AHL Connecticut three times last season in order to work on his game. Still, the left wing viewed his relationship with Tortorella as “a pretty positive one; he communicated what he wanted from me, what he expected from me, worked closely with me and helped me get better as a player.”
“It was a really good learning experience.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.