Mike Keenan won a Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994, but came to the Vancouver Canucks -- his fifth NHL head coaching job -- with a reputation for hard-headedness.
Thursday night, he was just a softy.
Keenan earned his 500th career victory as Vancouver goaltender Garth Snow beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-0.
"It means a lot," Keenan said. "I'm very proud of the accomplishment. As I said earlier this week, it means I've been around too long."
"There have been some great coaches in the history of the NHL. This means you've had some great teams and great players to work with, because coaches don't win hockey games. Players do."
Keenan said he had worked with some of the best coaches in the game as an assistant.
"At the same time, I had great teaching as a youngster from people who made their mark, namely Scotty (Bowman), who brought me into pro hockey."
Keenan's 500th win tied him with former Montreal coach Toe Blake for fifth place in NHL history. Only Bowman (1,062 wins), Al Arbour (781), Dick Irvin (693) and Billy Reay (542) are ahead of him.
"Five hundred wins, that's unbelievable," Snow said.
Informed Keenan wanted his goalie to have the game puck because of the shutout, Snow said, "No, he deserves it. I'm really proud to be part of that milestone. It's a tribute to his coaching and his longevity."
Peter Zezel and Mark Messier scored first-period goals, and the Canucks added two shorthanded goals in the second period to end a 15-game winless streak against Colorado. The Canucks had gone 0-12-3 against Colorado since December 1995.
| Even if Garth Snow hadn't shut out the Avalanche, he could have hid behind the Canucks offense. (AP) |
"It feels good to finally get that monkey off our backs," said defenseman Bret Hedican, one of the few Canucks who has endured the entire streak.
Snow, posting his second shutout of the season, had 35 saves, while Colorado's Craig Billington had 22. Colorado went 0-for-8 on the power play.
"It was one of those nights when every time we had a scoring chance, we missed the net or Snow had a big save," Colorado coach Bob Hartley said. "I'm proud for Keenan. To win 500 games in the NHL, especially in today's business where coaches come and go, that's quite an accomplishment."
Colorado applied early pressure on Snow but couldn't score. At 13:36, Hedican took a long shot from the left boards just inside the blue line. The shot was redirected by Zezel past Billington.
About five minutes later, Messier, the eighth-leading goal scorer in NHL history, recorded his 606th career goal, punching in a shot from the right circle after passes from Alexander Mogilny and Markus Naslund. It was Messier's ninth goal of the season and came on a power play at 18:54.
The Canucks scored their two shorthanded goals in a span of 2:37 of the second period.
At 11:14, Hedican launched a long shot that appeared to deflect off the skate of Colorado defenseman Greg de Vries, who was stationed in front of the goal. Then, at 13:51, Bryan McCabe got another, scoring from the left circle halfway through a Colorado power play.
Adrian Aucoin added the final goal at 2:09 of the third period when the Canucks had a two-man advantage.
The Avalanche, injury-riddled on defense, suited up only five defensemen for the game, and one of them, Jeff Buchanan, played sparingly.
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