Rangers Vs. Avalanche: Varlamov Silences Rangers On Opening Night

The Colorado Avalanche spoiled the opening night festivities tonight at Madison Square Garden, and defeated the New York Rangers by a final score of 4-2. Given the large roster turnover this season, it took the Rangers sometime to find their game and there were some defensive miscues. But despite that, the Rangers were by and far the better team this evening in the offensive zone.

Semyon Varlamov was an absolute monster in the blue paint tonight, and stole two points for the visiting Avalanche. As mentioned above, with the expected adjustment period early in the game, the Rangers found themselves down 2-0 relatively quickly in the first period. Matt Duchene opened the scoring just 5:29 into regulation after he got inside positioning on Kevin Shattenkirk, and tapped home a loose puck in the crease.

The Avalanche added another just over five minutes later with Mikko Rantanen wiring a slap shot from the far face-off circle. There were obviously some nervous murmurs resonating from the crowd, but the Rangers quickly righted the ship before it swerved out of control. Mika Zibanejad went into beast mode during the second half of the first period, and scored a pair of goals to bring the Rangers back to even.

The first goal came off of a scramble in the crease, with the puck wobbling back out to Kevin Shatenkirk all alone in the high slot. Rather than firing the puck into a pack of players in front, Shattenkirk changed the angle by slipping the puck over to Zibanejad, who fired the puck into the net before Varlamov was able to slide over.

That goal set the tone for the remainder of the period, as the Rangers really turned it up another level to find the tying goal. With just two seconds remaining in the first, Zibanejad wired his second goal of the evening on the power play after receiving a beautiful cross-ice feed from Mats Zuccarello.

It was like night and day between the beginning and end of the first period, but it was during the second period where the Rangers struggled a bit in their own zone. While they continued to create chances at the opposite end of the rink, the Rangers defense appeared to loosen up a bit. The coverage was a little sloppy, and even though it didn’t hurt them too bad, the Avalanche did find a way to make them pay in the end.

Nearing the end of the period, Alex Kerfoot found Tyson Barrie in-stride and Barrie unloaded a heavy slap shot to make it a 3-2 game. Henrik Lundqvist probably would like to have the third goal back, but at the end of the day, the Rangers needed to find a way back into the game.

Much like the second half of the first period, the Rangers came out absolutely flying in the third period and were constantly pressuring the Avalanche. Unfortunately, as the Rangers raised their game to another level, so did Varlamov. Mika Zibanejad had a golden opportunity to notch his third goal of the game midway through the second, but a sprawling blocker save by Varlamov kept the 3-2 scoreline.

Following some late pressure in the offensive zone, Gabriel Landeskog lofted the puck out of the zone and it wound up gliding into the empty net to make it 4-2 Avalanche. Despite the loss, there is a lot to be happy with moving forward as the Rangers win nine times out of ten if they play like that on a nightly basis.

The good news is that it’s only the first game of the 82, and as the season carries on, the Rangers will clean up a lot of the issues we saw in the second period. The Rangers will now turn their attention to the Toronto Maple Leafs with Saturday night’s matchup looming in Toronto.