The New York Rangers were in Denver Friday night and played the role of punching bag as the Avalanche found their A-game and buried the Rangers, 6-1.
Much like Colorado’s success early on in the season, Friday’s win came on the backs of the top line as the trio of Mikko Rantanen, Gabe Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon totaled eight points on the night.
Coming off of a six-game slide, Jared Bednar has been critical of the way his team has started games lately and they did not disappoint their head coach against New York, getting an early lead and never looking back.
“In the first period, we get the man advantage right away, and the difference-maker was right then and there for us, so that was good to see,” Bednar said. “I like some of the things I saw offensively; guys going to the net, breaking the goalie’s sight lines — I think we had three deflection goals — point-shots coming, and without hesitation, we had guys getting to the net and deflecting pucks.”
The scoring began early after a five-minute boarding major given to Cody McLeod with 2:29 into the game gave the Avalanche their first of ten power-play opportunities for the evening. Just under halfway through the penalty, Nathan MacKinnon fired a fast and precise wrist shot over Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev’s glove hand to put the Avs up 1-0.
With 26 seconds left in McLeod’s major, Mikko Rantanen was credited with one of his own after a puck intended to be a cross-ice pass bounced off of Rangers defenseman Neal Pionk and into the net for a strong 2-0 Avalanche lead.
“To get a power play that early, I think it’s big to get the momentum, and when you get five minutes, you have to score there,” Rantanen said. “We were talking about getting the first goal and to get two on the power play there gave us a good start to the game.”
The Avalanche had four more power-play chances in the period and would close out the first frame with complete control, leading the game 2-0 and the shot count 16-3.
Colorado’s third goal didn’t come until 7:26 left in the second period on the team’s 29th shot of the game. The goal was scored after an Erik Johnson slap shot from the point tipped off of Gabe Landeskog’s leg and the trifecta was complete — all three members of Colorado’s top line had scored a goal.
The Avalanche continued to pummel the Rangers, scoring three more in the third period to seal the victory. Colorado’s fourth goal was scored by Alex Kerfoot in a similar fashion as Landeskog, standing right in front of the Rangers’ crease and tipping a J.T. Compher shot from the point.
The fifth Avalanche goal was their third power-play goal of the night, scored by Mikko Rantanen on yet another tip-in from the point.
The Rangers ended Philipp Grubauer’s hope at a shutout with 10:39 left in the game after a bad offensive possession in the Ranger zone led to a Ryan Strome breakaway, where he slid the puck past the Avs’ goalie’s glove side.
Shortly after, New York had another chance at scoring when Jimmy Vesey was awarded a penalty shot. Vesey’s attempt culminated in a Grubauer glove save, and the Avalanche victory was all but sealed.
Avs defenseman Ryan Graves added his first NHL goal, good for the final goal of the night when he beat Georgiev on a rebound that bounced to the center of the slot — and right to Graves.
“I was worrying about this game all day. I know it was the sixth goal, but it felt pretty good,” Graves said. “I’m happy tonight and I was pretty excited. It’s awesome. It’s a pretty good experience for me.”
With three assists on the night and the 278th point of his career, Tyson Barrie took over sole possession of all-time points for a defenseman in franchise history, passing John-Michael Liles who had 275.
“It’s nice to get it out of the way and put it behind me,” Barrie said about the achievement. “It’s something I can look back on and take pride in.”
The Avalanche ended the game with 47 total shots to New York’s 25 and will look to build off of the win as they head out on a five-game road trip facing Canadian teams in all five. First up are the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday for an important two points — in a city where the Avalanche haven’t won in a long, long time.
Winnipeg currently sits at the top of the Central Division with 52 points while Colorado currently sits in the first wild-card position with 48. Puck drop Tuesday will be at 6 PM MST.