NEW YORK - 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 Coach 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 brilliant career eight years earlier, Gretzky stood behind the Coyotes bench for the first time in New York and left with a most satisfying win.
"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 of 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 this season, and Ilya Bryzgalov rode a strong start after a rare day off and made 34 saves, allowing only a third-period goal by Dan Girardi.
Daniel Carcillo, Radim Vrbata, Fredrik Sjostrom and Perrault scored in the second period when the Coyotes blew the game open with 11 shots.
Not bad for the Coyotes' first visit to the Garden since Oct. 28, 2002. The Rangers had been 9-1 against the franchise, formerly the Winnipeg Jets, dating to a win Jan. 6, 1992.
Gretzky retired as a member of the Rangers on April 18, 1999, after his third season 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.
Sharks 2, Ducks 1
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Joe Thornton beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere with a shot high to the stick side to lift San Jose to a shoot-out victory over Anaheim and spoil Scott Niedermayer's return to the Ducks.
Thornton was the 12th shooter and just the fifth to score in the shoot-out. His goal gave the Sharks their first victory over Anaheim this season.
The 34-year-old Niedermayer, named the playoffs MVP after helping the Ducks win their first Stanley Cup, sat out the first part of this season while contemplating retirement. He informed the team Dec. 5 that he was returning and began working out with his teammates.
Flames 5, Blues 3
ST. LOUIS - Calgary's top line of Jarome Iginla, Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow combined for 12 points, and the Flames won their fifth in a row on the road, over St. Louis.
Iginla had two goals and two assists, Huselius scored a goal and added four assists, and Langkow added two goals and an assist for the Flames.
Iginla's third-period power-play goal at 7 minutes, 55 seconds proved to be the difference. It was his team-leading 23d goal of the season.
Andy McDonald scored a goal and added an assist in his St. Louis debut, but it wasn't enough as the Blues dropped their fourth in a row.
Panthers 3, Blackhawks 1
CHICAGO - Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester recorded a goal and an assist to end an eight-game stretch without a point, and Tomas Vokoun made 44 saves to help Florida defeat Chicago.
Rostislav Olesz and Richard Zednik also scored for the Panthers.