Coming off a frustrating 5-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the Colorado Avalanche were desperate to right the ship and claim a couple points. The New York Rangers meanwhile are right in the thick of the playoff race and were looking to pad their margin over the Boston Bruins.
The author apologises in advance for the sparse recap of the late 3rd period. Internet access in New Zealand is a precious commodity. Between the random network drops and the bandwidth so narrow I could scarcely see the sun through the gap, the last 15 or so minutes of the game were difficult to watch, recap, and grep highlights for.
All that said, let's get this show on the road:
The Avalanche were outshot 13-5 in the first period, surprising nobody. The game opened with Nathan MacKinnon centering Maxime Talbot and Danny Briere, because I think at this point Patrick Roy is just pulling numbers out of a hat.
The Rangers' first scoring chance came off a particularly brutal bit of puck handling by Nate Guenin, but goaltender Semyon Varlamov was in typical form. He stopped the first four shots in a row.
At 5:31 in the game, a bizarre double-penalty saw Ryan O'Reilly and NYR's Kevin Hayes sent to the box at the same time. O'Reilly was called for a trip on Hayes, but Hayes was simultaneously called for delay of game due to concealment of the puck. Exactly how he concealed the puck when the play was going to be whistled dead for O'Reilly's penalty is a mystery, but hey, it gave the Avalanche a 4-on-4 rather than a penalty kill.
Shortly after, defenseman Brad Stuart blocked a shot by NYR's Kevin Klein and went immediately to the locker room. Avalanche fans spent a while determining whether or not this was a bad thing, but in the end it was a moot point because Stuart returned to the ice.
Matt Duchene got the Avalanche's first SOG over nine minutes into the game, a wind-up that NYR goaltender Cam Talbot stopped easily.
Toward the end of the period the Avs got a powerplay opportunity, but the Rangers penalty kill made it look easy. The Avs managed only one shot on net in the entire power play, and that left them 0-for-28 on the man advantage. (Side note: every time they fail to score a power play goal, the Avs are setting a new team record for longest PPG drought.)
At 3:30 remaining in the period, the Avalanche executed what might just be the worst line change in the history of this franchise, leading directly to a Rangers goal.
Dan Boyle has little opposition, makes it 1-0 NYR:
The period ended 1-0 NYR.
The Rangers showed off a strong forecheck to start the period Varlamov made a nice stop on Dan Girardi.
However, not long after, the Rangers' Kevin Hayes got an even better look at the net when Tyson Barrie let him walk on up to Varlamov's doorstop and score a pretty little goal. Nate Guenin also made an appearance as a piece of attractive statuary in front of the net.
Kevin Hayes saunters on in and makes it 2-0:
The Iginla-Duchene-Tanguay line managed to generate some shots on Talbot including a nice little breakaway. Unfortunately for the Avs, Cam Talbot is a solid goaltender and he wasn't going to give up anything that easily.
Also of note was a premature flash of the Avalanche goal line around the 11-minute mark.
WAS IT A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME, BARRY?
Yes it was, Other Barry, yes it was.
I am not mincing words when I say that the next shift by the Landeskog-MacKinnon-O'Reilly line was one of the best I've ever seen from them. They put shot after shot on Talbot, keeping the puck in the zone, resisting clear after clear. Every shot earned a louder roar from the crowd, and when the puck finally deflected in off of Gabriel Landeskog's chest, it felt like a well-deserved goal.
That was some of the prettiest hockey I've ever seen this Avalanche team play.
The goal was put to review, presumably for narrative purposes, but the call on the ice stood.
Landeskog scores a good hockey goal: 2-1 NYR
Later on in the period, the Avs got a lucky break as J.T. Miller and Dan Girardi took consecutive penalties, leading to a 1:53 5-on-3 opportunity. Even the League's worst power play can score when up by two men, right? Wrong, apparently. They managed only a single shot.
And then New York's Matts Zuccarello scored on the very first even strength shift. To be fair to both the Avalanche and Varlamov, Zuccarello sniped it into an area approximately the size of the Avalanche's playoff chances.
Zuccarello gets Norwegian Wood, NYR up 3-1:
Zach Redmond, who was a strong shower for the Avs earlier in the season, took a penalty at the end of the period, though the Avs managed to last until the horn without allowing another goal. Redmond has looked similar to the rest of the Avalanche defense lately, but his tendency to end up in the box is a little worrisome.
The period ended 3-1 to New York.
The Rangers began the period on the powerplay, but the Avalanche came out swinging. Dennis Everberg and Alex Tanguay got an early look at the net, but Talbot stayed on top of them. He also made great saves on Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie.
The Avalanche threw several shots on net in the first few minutes and it finally paid off when Jarome Iginla cleaned up the rebound on a shot from Brad Stuart.
Iginla narrows the gap and makes it 3-2 NYR:
The Avalanche got another fruitless power play opportunity when Tanner Glass was called for checking Ryan O'Reilly in the head. O'Reilly seemed fine. The Avalanche PP did not.
The Avalanche absolutely dominated in shots on goal in the third period, poking and hacking at rebounds. Duchene and Iginla were throwing everything they had at the net, and at 9:16 Jan Hejda scored his first goal of the season off a rebound from Iginla.
Jan Hejda without his signature bomb shot, but it's still a goal and that'll do:
With the game now tied and Gabriel Landeskog flying all over the ice, the game looked within reach for the Avs. Unfortunately, Varlamov wasn't quite up to task when Carl Hagelin lobbed a wrister at him and the Rangers retook the lead at the 7:48 mark. Noteworthy assist on this goal goes to Kevin Hayes, who was having just a hell of a game.
Hagelin scores, assisted by Kevin and Kevin (Hayes and Klein), 4-3 NYR:
Momentum swung back and forth a bit. The Rangers, having come out flat-footed in the third, scored again shortly thereafter:
Rick Nash with a very Rick Nash goal right after the Altitude announcers discuss how he hasn't scored yet:
At four minutes remaining, Varlamov headed to the bench, but that signature 6-on-5 magic never materialized. The Avs tossed a couple pucks at Talbot but nothing stuck.
Tanguay headed to the box with less than three minutes remaining for tripping Lee Stempniak, and that was the final nail in the coffin for the Avalanche.
To add insult to injury, Rangers Captain Ryan McDonagh got himself an empty net goal, and that was all she wrote.
Final score was 6-3 in favour of New York.
MHH Three Stars
1. Kevin Hayes without a doubt. He had a goal and two assists for the Rangers, and when the Rangers came out playing like hot garbage in the third, he was the only one who looked like he had his shit together. Congratulations, Kevin, you played a whole hockey game.
2. Gabriel Landeskog came out fighting for the Avs today and scored their first goal. He stepped up the effort and Did The Thing when someone needed to do it. As cliche as it is, that's the sort of thing a team needs a Captain to do.
3. Jarome Iginla scored his 577th career goal. Here's to at least a few more of those in burgundy and blue, eh?
Thank God this game is over. The Avs take on the Dallas Stars next on the 14th. The matchup airs at 7:00PM on Altitude TV.
Will the visiting Stars shoot for a wild card spot? Will the Avalanche slide further down the mountain? Tune in on Valentine's Day to find out!