NEW YORK – In many ways, it was a familiar scene: coach John Tortorella behind the bench at Madison Square Garden, berating a defenseman for an error after a goal against.
Only it was the Vancouver bench, Tortorella was coaching the Canucks and the defenseman he was dressing down was Alex Edler, whose failure to clear the puck led to the first New York Rangers goal Saturday.
That goal was the first of three for Chris Kreider, a Rangers forward whom Tortorella tormented last season with frequent benchings and demotions. Kreider’s hat trick, the first of his career, seemed like a sweet comeuppance for his old coach, and it sparked the Rangers to a 5-2 victory over the Canucks.
But Kreider declined to gloat.
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“I have no hard feelings toward him,” said Kreider, who characterized his relationship with Tortorella last season as “a pretty positive one.”
The rout came in Tortorella’s first visit to the Garden since he was hired as coach of the Canucks. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was Vancouver’s coach for the previous seven seasons.
“Tortorella, Tortorella” the New York crowd chanted derisively as the game wound down late in the third period, in the coach’s only regular-season visit to the building this season.
After the game, the exasperation Tortorella showed on the bench was gone, and he spoke calmly about the loss and how it was “a little weird” to be back at the Garden as the visiting coach. He answered a question about Kreider’s performance with a credo he used in his 5½ seasons as the Rangers’ coach.
“As always, I’m not talking about the other team’s players,” he said.
Kreider became the first Ranger to score a hat trick against the Canucks since Wayne Gretzky in 1997.
Some reporters tried to get Kreider to say he was pleased to do so well against Tortorella, but the player did not take the bait. He said as Rangers coach Tortorella “communicated what he wanted from me and what was expected from me and worked closely with me, and tried to make me a better player.”
He called his time with Tortorella “a really good learning experience.”
Vancouver’s David Booth wrecked rookie goaltender Cam Talbot’s shutout bid late in the second period, and Daniel Sedin added a meaningless power-play goal with less than three minutes left.
Talbot, who is Henrik Lundqvist’s backup, made 35 saves and improved his record to 6-1.
Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo was pulled after Rick Nash’s tip-in goal 17 seconds into the second period, having stopped seven of 10 shots. He was replaced by Eddie Lack.
The Rangers are 14-13-0 and the Canucks are 13-10-5.
Before the game, the Vancouver coach was this season’s patient, media-friendly Tortorella and answered questions for nine minutes.
Tortorella was asked if he had any friends or family at the game.
“Not a soul,” he said, adding he would not be meeting afterward with the New York players he used to coach.
“That’s certainly not disrespectful,” he said, noting the Canucks had a plane flight to make.