The New York Rangers had a solid 40 minutes against the Colorado Avalanche tonight, but for whatever reason, they fell into a huge defensive shell early in the third period. If not for their late surge, the Rangers might have just lost this game after allowing the Avalanche to walk all over them coming out of the second intermission. I get that a win makes this a little easier to talk about, but the Rangers are sure being exposed without Henrik Lundqvist in between the pipes.
Don't take that as a shot at Cam Talbot either, because he responded tonight with a huge game after an iffy one against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's the fact that the Rangers don't have their elite goaltender to fall back on after they start falling into a hole while holding onto a lead. I'm not entirely sure who is making that call, but it definitely needs to be address moving forward.
But anyways, let's move onto a more positive outlook. As I alluded to earlier, the Rangers had an excellent start to this game, and jumped all over the Avalanche from the opening puck drop. Semyon Varlamov was able to come up with a handful of saves early on to keep the Avalanche above water, but the Rangers finally cashed in with under four minutes remaining in the period.
Dan Boyle was able to capitalize on a beautiful feed from Kevin Hayes to spring him on a breakaway, and he finished it off with a nifty move to the backhand. For whatever reason, four different Avalanche players decide to go for a line change with the puck still in their zone, and the Rangers cashed in on the counter-attack. Speaking of Boyle, he has really turned his game around as of late, and is providing the Rangers with the offensive punch that was expected from him. In his last seven games, Boyle has put four goals to give him eight on the year.
The Rangers walked into the first intermission with a very convincing period under their belt, and wound up out-shooting the Avalanche 13-5 in the opening frame. They carried that momentum over to the second period, and just 1:47 in, Kevin Hayes scored a highlight reel goal to put the Rangers up 2-0. Hayes also had one of his best games as a Ranger tonight, and his second period goal was a thing of beauty.
Hayes started the entire play with a big play in the defensive end, and lugged the puck through the neutral zone with an immense amount of speed. With his speed backing off the defenders, Hayes took the puck wide on Tyson Barrie, and slipped through a seam right at the top of the crease. Hayes had a big step on Barrie at that point, and slipped the puck around Varlamov for the easy tap in.
It was a huge goal to put the Rangers up two goals on the road, but exactly 11 minutes later, Gabriel Landeskog pulled the Avalanche back within a goal. Prior to the goal, the Avalanche were able to keep the puck in the Rangers for well over two minutes, and the goal was almost predictable. There was really nothing Cam Talbot could have done any different to keep that puck out of the net, as it took a fluke deflection off of Landeskog, and fell in behind him.
With the Rangers now back on their heels following the goal, Mats Zuccarello came to the rescue with his third goal in two games. Zuccarello deserves a ton o praise for this goal, as he worked his tail off in the defensive zone to move the puck up to Rick Nash, and then caught up to the play to make himself available for a pass. Nash also deserves a ton of credit as he hit the breaks coming into the zone, and hit Zuccarello with a sick tape-to-tape pass coming over the blue line.
The Rangers went into the second intermission feeling pretty good about their game, but came out half asleep as the third period started. Whatever happened in the locker room, the Rangers took a step back, and feel into a defensive shell early on in the period. That allowed the Avalanche to rattle off two straight goals to knot the game up at two. First it was Jarome Iginla who banged home Max Talbot's rebound after stripping the puck from Martin St. Louis.
It was a horrible play by St. Louis to not pick his head up to clear the puck, and he needs to find some sort of motivation to get him out of this funk. Then just four minutes later, Jan Hejda scored his first goal in 88 games to bring the Avalanche even with the Rangers past the midway mark of the third period. The goal horn in Colorado must have woken the Rangers up after the tying goal, as they rattled off three of their own to close out a 6-3 win in Colorado.
Just 3:40 after Hejda tied up the game, Carl Hagelin was able to slam home a loose puck to the side of the net, and restored the Rangers lead. Once again, Kevin Hayes created the entire goal by finding Hagelin through traffic, and after missing his first attempt, Hagelin banged home the rebound. With the Rangers getting some of the momentum, Rick Nash felt it was time to make his presence known, and scored a highlight reel goal of his own.
Not only did Nash sprint 200 feet at the end of his shift to beat out an icing call, but he also fought off two defenders behind the net to come away with the puck, But, he wasn't done there, and after winning the puck battle, he powered his way to the front of the net. Nash was practically on his stomach by the time he got the shot off, and whipped it off of the post, and in behind Varlamov to make it 5-3.
Ryan McDonagh capped off the scoring with a minute remaining, and scored on the empty net (yes, you read that right) to secure a big 6-3 win over the Avalanche. The Rangers will have a scheduled off day tomorrow before they take on the Arizona Coyotes this upcoming Saturday.