Last night none of us could get the recap, so we reached out to Glen Miller, who has done some terrific recaps here before, and he was more than happy to write last night’s recap. Thanks Glen, great stuff as usual. Make sure to follow Glen on Twitter.
That is exactly how fans of other teams have felt so often after Hank has stolen a game from them. Colorado Avalanche G Semyon Varlamov did his best Hank impression by stopping 41 of 42 shots and practically beat the Rangers single-handedly. Despite dominating play for much of the contest, to the tune of a 42 to 20 shot advantage, the Rangers were dealt a bitter blow by Colorado in suffering the 3 – 1 loss. The Blueshirts now cling to a two-point advantage over the Penguins who defeated New Jersey earlier Saturday and still possess a game-in-hand on the Rangers.
The Rangers lost despite setting a season-high in SOG. It’s also unusual the Rangers dropped this decision even though they outshot Colorado given their winning % when directing more rubber on their opponents is a league-best 0.706. Nashville is second but a full 56 percentage points behind New York.
The bottom line is this was a bad beat for the Rangers as they desperately needed these two points in order to keep the molten lava hot Penguins at bay. Whatever happens the rest of the way in the regular season ultimately this could prove to be a game we look back on with regret if the Rangers fail to win the Atlantic Division. Let’s get to the game.
Rangers got all four lines into the game early and each created quality scoring chances for. The fourth line generated lots of offensive zone time with solid forechecking at around the 6:30 mark of period one. The Blueshirts would do a good job for much of the period pressuring the Avalanche in the offensive zone.
Mats Zuccarello scored his first goal of the season at 10:43 to give the Rangers the lead. Dan Girardi fired the puck from along the boards at a sharp angle and Zuccarello was able to deflect the shot by Varlamov. Ryan McDonagh had the secondary assist.
The Rangers would get their first PP at 11:40 when prized Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog tripped up fellow Swede rookie Carl Hagelin. The PP was another all-too-common disappointment and failed to convert. The team had trouble even getting set up and two faceoff losses in the offensive zone were a big reason why. Derek Stepan had the best chance of the man-advantage but Semyon Varlamov stopped the wrister launched from the right faceoff circle.
The Avalanche are known as a fast team but the Rangers did a good job containing that speed until Matt Hunwick broke through to even the contest at 1. Peter Mueller, skating in on the RW, found a rushing Matt Hunwick and got him the puck. Hunwick deftly deked Bickel going backhand-forehand before going back to the backhand and lifting the puck over Hank’s glove.
New York would get the second PP of the game after Ryan O’Byrne was called for cross-checking Ranger captain Ryan Callahan. This PP was much better with a lot more puck movement than the first despite not resulting in a goal. Brian Boyle had a couple of great chances from in tight but Varlamov was equal to the task. Varlamov also made a solid save on a McDonagh wrister with Boyle providing a screen as the PP was ending.
At the end of one the Rangers led the Avalanche in shots by a 16 – 6 margin but the contest was still tied at a goal apiece.
The Avalanche started the second strong getting two solid scoring chances within the first minute of the period.
The game’s first and only scrap occurred in this period as Stu Bickel faced-off against Cody McLeod of the Avalanche. Several haymakers were thrown and Bickel appeared to land a solid right to the back of McLeod’s head knocking the Avalanche forward to the ice and ending the fight.
The Rangers would be awarded their third consecutive PP after Jay McClement was called for goaltender interference at 6:08. The resulting PP had its good moments yet still no goal. The Rangers did do a great job of moving the puck and getting shots on net from the point but Varlamov wouldn’t break and the Rangers just couldn’t cash in on their rebound opportunities.
Colorado would break the tie at 9:51 when Landeskog beautifully deflected a Ryan Wilson shot from the left point and through Hank, five-hole. Landskog was left alone after Marc Staal blocked a shot and was unable to get back to his position. The goal was the 21st for Landeskog this season in what should result in a Calder nomination for last June’s second overall draft selection.
New York would finish with a 10 – 7 advantage in shots for the period and at that point led Colorado 26 – 13 overall.
The Avalanche went on their first PP at 3:24 of the period with McDonagh accessed a penalty for holding. In truth it was not a good call as Landeskog grabbed the stick of McDonagh and held onto it with his left hand. The Rangers would keep the league’s best road PP off the board and remain within a goal.
Ryan Callahan would draw another PP for the home team with under eight minutes remaining when Steve Downie was caught hooking the Rangers captain. Zuccarello just missed potting his second of the game when his one-time shot off a Brad Richards faceoff win hit the post just six seconds in. The Rangers would end up getting three shots on goal but still couldn’t solve Varlamov.
The Rangers would continue to press for the tying goal but Ryan McDonagh was called for his second minor of the game with just more than a minute left and the goalie pulled. Paul Stastny would put the game out of reach with an EN marker and only 14 seconds remaining.
Here are some additional thoughts on tonight’s game.
The PP looked good overall, aside from the first one, but this is a results-oriented league. It matters little how many chances the man-advantage looks if they aren’t potting goals. Take away the EN goal and this was a one-goal contest. Had the Rangers been able to find a way to convert one of their five opportunities they would have assured themselves of at least one point.
Brian Boyle and Brandon Dubinsky
Both players looked good tonight and had several good scoring chances each. Just like the PP, results are what matter and these guys are struggling badly to produce goals. With the club desperately needing secondary scoring, any offense these guys can bring is needed.
The Top Line
Prior to tonight the newly minted top line of Richards, Gaborik and Hagelin had accounted for a combined 15 points over the last two games (two goals and five points each). Tonight the Avalanche countered the Rangers top trio with D Jan Hejda and O’Byrne. They did a great job and held the Rangers #1 line off the score sheet tonight.
He isn’t big and no one knows how he would hold up over a full season in a top-six role but when he’s been in the lineup Zucc has generated offense. There is no questioning he brings offensive instincts few Rangers can match. He recorded his first goal of this season and had several other chances tonight. Zuccarello isn’t afraid to get in on the forecheck and pressure the opposition defense. It was another solid performance by the young Norwegian as he tries to earn a long-term spot in New York.
The defense, solid for much of the year has struggled of late. Tonight they played a very solid game and held Colorado to just 20 shots against and few quality scoring chances. Unfortunately Colorado cashed in on two of those chances.
The first goal was a spectacular individual effort by Hunwick. If any Avalanche player is going to break in one-on-one and beat Hank, Hunwick would be one of the last anyone would expect. Still can’t take anything away as it was a great goal.
Colorado’s 2nd goal was the unfortunate result of Marc Staal blocking a shot and being unable to get back to his spot. This left Del Zotto alone in front of the goal and he chose to leave Landeskog unguarded for the brilliant deflection goal.
Many Ranger fans were looking forward to seeing Erixon back in the Rangers lineup. After seeing Anton Stralman and Steve Eminger struggle of late it was hoped Erixon would solidify the defense corps with his puck-moving skills and intelligence. Erixon played just 9:57, fewest of any Ranger defenseman, and finished a -1, though he did get a look on the PP (1:09 of ice time). I’m sure I speak for many in hoping he gets more time to show what he can do down the stretch.
As hard as it may be to believe at this point, the Rangers still played a very good game. Varlamov was the difference-maker tonight and stole a couple of points for the Avalanche. As Rangers fans we know what it’s like to be on that side of the coin but that doesn’t make it any easier to be on the wrong side of a terrific goaltending performance.