Wayne Gretzky spoke in a hoarse voice through a wide smile and even mustered a few laughs.
The flu and laryngitis notwithstanding, the Hall of Famer's return to Madison Square Garden could not have been better.
Illness, not anger, robbed Gretzky of his voice. He didn't have to yell at his team last night as the Phoenix Coyotes rolled to a 5-1 rout of the New York Rangers.
Back in the building where he played the final game of his career 8 years earlier, Gretzky stood behind the Coyotes bench for the first time in New York.
"I don't know if it was revenge," Gretzky said. "They're a good team. Over 82 games, you're going to have games where it doesn't go your way. We got a couple lucky bounces and did some good things but I know the next game they play they'll be a much different team."
Joel Perrault scored twice and added an assist in his second game of the season, and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made 34 saves. It was the Coyotes' third win on a six-game road trip that has two stops left.
Daniel Carcillo, Radim Vrbata, Fredrik Sjostrom and Perrault scored in the second period when the Coyotes blew the game open with 11 shots.
"Maybe they're eating a lot of carrots," Gretzky said, laughing. "Better eyesight."
It was the Coyotes' first visit to the Garden since Oct. 28, 2002; Gretzky retired as a member of the Rangers on April 18, 1999, after 3 seasons with New York.
"It seems like it's fresh in my mind because I think about it a lot because I wish I could still play," Gretzky said. "Unfortunately I can't because I'm not good enough anymore."
In other games:
* At St. Louis, Calgary's top line of Jarome Iginla, Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow combined for five goals and 12 points, and the Flames won their fifth in a row on a six-game road trip with a 5-3 victory over the Blues.
* At Chicago, Tomas Vokoun stopped 44 shots, and Rostislav Olesz, Richard Zednik and Jay Bouwmeester scored the goals as the Florioda Panthers downed the Blackhawks, 3-1.
* At Anaheim, Joe Thornton scored the winning goal in the sixth round of a shootout and the San Jose Sharks topped the Ducks 2-1 in Scott Niedermayer's first game of the season for Anaheim. *