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Rangers' Vigneault wins in return to Vancouver

The SportsXchange

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Alain Vigneault did not help his former team's playoff chances Tuesday night.

Vigneault's New York Rangers beat his former Vancouver Canucks squad 3-1 in the coach's first regular-season game at Rogers Arena since he was fired last summer.

Left winger Benoit Pouliot scored a first-period, power-play goal, and right winger Martin St. Louis added a short-handed goal in the third period, helping the Rangers post a club-record 25th road victory of the season.

New York (43-30-4) earned its seventh win in eight games overall.

Vigneault downplayed the significance of his club leading the NHL in road wins.

"Nothing special," Vigneault said. "There's not a home way to play and a road way to play. There's one way to play, and we try to play the right way all the time."

The Canucks (34-32-11) saw their slim playoff hopes fade further as they suffered their third straight loss. Vancouver is six points behind the Phoenix Coyotes and the Dallas Stars, who are tied for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

The Rangers hold a three-point lead on the Philadelphia Flyers for second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Asked if the win over his former club was satisfying, Vigneault replied: "It's two points. We're battling to get in (the playoffs.) That's all this is."

St. Louis added, "This is a big win for our team. We're trying to better our fate in the playoff picture."

Left winger Daniel Carcillo scored a first-period goal for New York.

Center Ryan Kesler got the lone goal for the Canucks, who outshot the Rangers 35-31. New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped 34 shots, while Vancouver goalie Eddie Lack recorded 28 saves.

"I think specialty teams has a lot to do with (the loss)," Kesler said. "Saying that, I think good teams find a way to win, and right now we're not finding that way. I'm not saying that we're not a good team. We're just not getting the job done."

There was considerable hype leading up to the game. With the Rangers having a firm hold on a playoff spot, many observers were comparing Vigneault, who became Vancouver's all-time winningest coach in seven seasons while taking them within a game of a Stanley Cup in 2010-11, with current coach John Tortorella, who has not excelled in his first season on the West Coast after being fired by New York last summer.

With five games remaining in the regular season, the Canucks appear likely to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The loss did nothing to help Tortorella, whose future has come under intense speculation in recent days.

Vigneault looked astute as he deployed St. Louis and fellow winger Rick Nash on both the power play and penalty-killing units. Nash assisted on St. Louis' timely short-handed marker, which broke open a 2-1 game.

It was New York's third short-handed goal in the past two games and 10th on the season.

"I just felt that this group here, the type of players that we have, I've got a few guys that I can use on the power play and the penalty-killing, and those guys are willing to do what it takes to kill penalties," Vigneault said.

The Rangers converted one of three man-advantage opportunities while blanking the Canucks on two man-advantage situations.

Kesler cut Vancouver's deficit in half at 6:21 of the second period as he one-timed left winger Daniel Sedin's pass from near the side boards.

The Canucks appeared to catch a break -- and gain some momentum -- when the Rangers took back-to-back penalties exactly two minutes apart in the third period. However, the second man-advantage opportunity, created when center Brian Boyle was called for interference, worked against the hosts.

St. Louis scored his short-handed marker, off a two-on-one with Nash, following a Canucks giveaway at the New York blue line, to put the Rangers ahead 3-1.

"They had two power plays and we had a one-goal lead and were penalty-killing," Vigneault said. "Obviously, that goal was very important for us."

The goal was the first as a Ranger for St. Louis, who was scoreless in his previous 14 games since being acquired at the trade deadline from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"It felt really good to get that first one," St. Louis said. "Hopefully, there are a lot more to come."

NOTES: Rangers D Ryan McDonagh was injured in the game's final minute as he took an elbow in the head from Vancouver RW Alex Burrows, who received a major penalty and game misconduct. Coach Alain Vigneault had no update on McDonagh after the game. ... New York D John Moore missed his fifth consecutive game with a head injury, and LW Chris Kreider, who had a hat trick in the Rangers' victory over Vancouver at Madison Square Garden in November, missed his third straight game with a head injury. ... Vancouver C Henrik Sedin (leg), D Chris Tanev and D Andrew Alberts (concussion) remain out. ... Rangers D Raphael Diaz played his first game against his former Canucks teammates since being dealt at the trade deadline. Diaz was not a Canuck for long. He was traded to Vancouver from Montreal in February and then played for Switzerland in the Olympics. ... The game marked the first regular-season meeting between the Rangers and Canucks in Vancouver since October 2011.

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