Thursday night at Madison Square Garden the Rangers let a third-period lead slip away and eventually dropped a 4-3 decision to the Colorado Avalanche in a game decided by the shootout.
Tied 1-1 through two rounds, Colorado's Alex Tanguay drew Henrik Lundqvist way out of his net to put the Avalanche ahead in the shootout. New York's Lee Stempniak then was denied by Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov, cementing the loss for the Rangers, who are now 2-2-3 over their last seven games.
The Rangers had carried a lead into the third period for just the fourth time in 16 games this season, but it took Colorado only 7 minutes 54 seconds to erase a 3-2 Blueshirts lead and tie the score on a Nathan Mackinnon power play goal. With Jesper Fast in the penalty box Mackinnon slapped a shot from left wing that changed directions off the stick of Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi and through the pads of Lundqvist to pull the visitors even.
Four minutes later Rick Nash nearly restored New York's lead with a power move to the net from right wing, but Colorado netminder Semyon Varlamov made a solid pad save. To add to the home team's frustration it appeared that Nash was high-sticked near his mouth by an Avs defenseman, but no penalty was called.
The Rangers had other chances to win the game in regulation, including a power play with 3:11 to play, and an open snap shot by a streaking Marty St. Louis that was smothered by Varlamov as the clock wound down to three seconds before overtime, but failed to capitalize.
Both teams came close to winning during the five-minute overtime. Mats Zuccarello drove a shot through Varlamov's pads at the four-minute mark, but the puck fell just short of the goal line.
Trailing 2-1 in the latter stages of the second period, the Rangers scored twice in a span of less than two minutes to grab their first lead of the night, 3-2. And the Rangers nearly made it three goals in three minutes, but Dominic Moore was stopped on a breakaway by Varlamov after Derek Stepan and Girardi had just scored.
With the teams skating four-on-four, Nash and Stepan took off on an odd-man rush up ice. Skating down the middle, Stepan faked a pass to Nash on left wing, and then beat Varlamov at 15:19 of the second, tying the game at two apiece. The goal was Stepan's first of the season since returning from a broken leg four games ago--and he now has recorded four points, including three in the past two contests.
Then at 17:02 Dan Girardi skated to the top of Varlamov's crease and redirected a Mats Zuccarello pass into the cage for his first goal of 2014-15, putting New York up by one. He became the first Rangers defenseman not named Kevin Klein to score a goal so far this season.
New York started slowly, outshot 12-6 and outscored 1-0 in the opening period. Coming off a shutout Tuesday night against Pittsburgh, Lundqvist was extremely sharp--and needed to be--in the first against a Colorado team looking to rebound from a 6-0 road loss on Long Island on Tuesday. The only goal he did allow in the opening twenty came at 15:09 when Matt Duchene banged in the rebound of a Tyson Barrie slap shot.
Kevin Hayes netted his second of the season 6:42 into the second period to pull the Rangers even. With a delayed penalty to be called against the Avalanche, the Rangers got an extra skater on the ice for Lundqvist and had a 6-on-5 advantage--one that Klein and Matt Hunwick patiently exploited before Hunwick's cross-ice pass deflected off Dom Moore's foot, with the puck finding Hayes to the right of Varlamov for a tap-in goal.
Alex Tanguay scored from in front of Lundqvist at 11:09 to restore the visitor's one-goal lead, but Stepan and Girardi answered back before the intermission arrived to swing the advantage to the Rangers.
Veteran defenseman Dan Boyle returned to the Blueshirts lineup Thursday for the first time since breaking his hand on Opening Night in St. Louis. He was on ice for the first Avalanche goal, as well as for two Ranger goals, to finish a +1. He also had a prime scoring chance in the first period, but couldn't handle a pretty Zuccarello pass through traffic.
Boyle started the night on a defense pairing with Marc Staal, but when Staal moved up to play alongside Girardi after the first Colorado goal, he paired with John Moore. The Rangers only had one full power play--and a very short 16 second one as well--and Boyle manned the point on the team's top power play unit.