Sometimes, you just get beat. In the Rangers’ case, they got hit by an Avalanche literally. Playing for the second straight night after traveling home from Chicago, they were no match for the Avalanche in a 7-3 loss at The Garden.
Facing one of the league’s best teams, they learned a lesson. The more rested Avs used their size and speed to perfection in a game that definitely was a step up. Unfortunately, the Rangers were no match. They had their season high seven-game winning streak snapped.
If you’re going to lose, you may as well get your money’s worth. To be honest, the Blueshirts were due for a bad game. With Gerard Gallant opting to throw rookie call-up Adam Huska into the fire for his NHL debut, it was a perfect storm.
They were outclassed by an established team who’s expected to compete for the Stanley Cup. It didn’t help that it was a back-to-back situation. However, that’s the schedule sometimes. They made far too many sloppy mistakes and paid for it against one of the game’s best offenses.
The seven goals Colorado put up were the most the Rangers have allowed this season. In fact, it had been a while since they gave up at least five. You have to go back to the hideous back-to-back losses to Edmonton and Calgary on Nov. 5-6. In each, they permitted six with the Flames routing them 6-0.
Gallant nailed what went wrong. From the outset, the Avalanche were the aggressor. Utilizing their team speed and skill, they took advantage of mental mistakes by the Rangers. The first goal came when Mikko Rantanen was able to finish off a Nazem Kadri feed in transition for the first of two goals at 4:11.
Adam Fox’s long stretch pass was intercepted by Devon Toews at his blue line. He quickly passed for Kadri, who gained the zone and moved the puck over for a quick Rantanen wrist shot that Huska was slightly screened on. The puck went through him to give Colorado an early lead.
But it wasn’t all bad in the first period. Over a couple of minutes later, the Blueshirts replied back thanks to some good work from Ryan Reaves. On a forecheck, he went around the Colorado net and tried a wrap around that Artemi Panarin retrieved. He then circled out to find Trouba for a good wrist shot that beat Darcy Kuemper through a Reaves screen at 6:56.
On the next shift, Reaves drew a penalty on Toews for tripping. But with the score tied, the Avalanche were very aggressive at killing off the first Rangers’ power play. They didn’t give the top unit any time and space. In fact, a Panarin turnover nearly led to an Erik Johnson shorthanded goal. The Avs got two shots on Huska down a man and held the Rangers without a shot.
In fact, it was Huska who settled down to keep his team even. He made a few sparkling saves to deny the dangerous Avalanche counterattack. He faced 19 shots in a turnover prone first where puck management was an issue.
Despite getting outplayed, the Rangers took a one-goal lead before the period concluded. With Jacob MacDonald off for holding Mika Zibanejad, it was the second unit that got the job done.
Following another ineffective shift for the top unit, Gallant took my advice and sent out the second unit. It paid dividends when Nils Lundkvist scored his first career NHL goal at 18:15. On the play, Trouba and Filip Chytil found enough space to get the puck over to Lundkvist for a shot from the left circle that beat Kuemper with 1:45 remaining. A nice moment for the rookie defenseman.
Despite getting outshot 19-9 and outchanced, the Rangers led by one after a period. However, they couldn’t keep the momentum. The uncharacteristic mistakes finally did them in during an awful second period.
In what can best be described as an avalanche, Colorado outscored them 5-0. It was full meltdown mode at 33rd and 8th. Nathan MacKinnon got the party started when he completely undressed K’Andre Miller to score his first goal since Oct. 23.
On the play, the superstar took a Gabriel Landeskog pass and exploded around a flat-footed Miller before beating Huska in one motion to tie the score at 4:48. Sam Girard netted the other assist. This was a highly skilled play at warp speed by a great player.
It didn’t get any better. On a Colorado cycle, Valeri Nichushkin got the puck up top for Cale Makar. His shot pass for Kadri was redirected by Huska for a 3-2 lead 1:23 later. Kadri beat both Fox and Ryan Lindgren on the goal. Neither player had a good night. They were far from alone.
A few shifts later, Kadri drew a tripping minor on Reaves. On the man-advantage for the second time in the game, the Avalanche converted courtesy of their second unit. After just missing on one try, Alex Newhook skated out and buried a one-timer for his sixth at 10:42. Both Girard and Toews picked up helpers.
Just like that, the Rangers went from being a goal up to two down in the first 10:42 of the second. On the next shift, Trouba caught MacKinnon with his head down in front of the net. The star center tried to make a move, but was not looking. That allowed Trouba to deliver a big hit shoulder to chest that floored MacKinnon.
Landeskog engaged Trouba right away. The two exchanged blows in an even fight. Landeskog was assessed an extra for unsportsmanlike conduct. Whatever. It was an instigator. Can’t they call it by the book instead of altering it?
With MacKinnon in the locker room for concussion protocol, his teammates did the heavy lifting. After killing off the third Rangers’ power play, Logan O’Connor took a Kadri pass and went around Miller before scoring a beautiful goal that made it 5-2 with 2:46 left. He wasn’t done.
On the following shift, a brutal turnover at center ice allowed O’Connor to come in and beat a helpless Huska on a breakaway just 22 seconds later to make it five consecutive goals for the Avalanche. At that point, I felt sorry for Huska. He was not to blame for this. There were too many passengers.
With the game out of reach, MacKinnon returned for the third. That was good news for Colorado. It was only his 13th game. He missed significant time. I was surprised they let him play. But maybe they wanted to make sure he was okay. Indeed, he looked fine.
If you were hoping for a miraculous comeback, what you got instead were consecutive penalties on Chytil and Patrik Nemeth. Even though they killed the abbreviated 10-second five-on-three off and denied the Avs on the five-on-four, all it did was take time off the scoreboard.
With it still a four-goal deficit, Kurtis MacDermid went after Trouba like a fool after Girard ran out of real estate and interfered with Huska. While Girard got the original, MacDermid acted like an idiot. Trouba didn’t waste his time with him. Each received matching roughing minors while MacDermid was given an additional misconduct to hit the showers.
If anything comes out of this fiasco, the rematch is next Tuesday, December 14. I’d prefer the Rangers stick to playing better hockey than what was on display last night. They’ll at least have a day off after hosting Nashville on Sunday. They visit the Sabres tomorrow night. That must be a bounce back.
After failing to capitalize on the power play thanks to 1:48 of just awfulness by the top unit, the Blueshirts got one back thanks to the First Round Pick Line. On a rare good play from Miller, his outlet pass sent Alexis Lafreniere and Chytil in on a two-on-one. Lafreniere patiently waited before sending a great feed to Chytil for a one-timer that made it 6-3 with 8:08 remaining.
It was only Chytil’s third goal. His first since 11/5. Ironically, that’s also the last time he had a two-point game. He finished with a goal and helper on Wednesday. The issue is both came in defeats.
For the season, he has six points (3-3-6) in 22 games. That’s not enough production. He really needs to pick it up. This is an important year for the 22-year old. He isn’t facing the best competition. What is he? Chytil definitely has chemistry with Lafreniere and Julien Gauthier. But they need more goals for confidence. Hopefully, this helps.
Less than two minutes later before you looked up, there was Rantanen deflecting in a Johnson shot pass for his second of the game at 13:25. That allowed Colorado to kick the extra point.
Everyone talks about MacKinnon, but Rantanen is an explosive scorer. They boast a great 1-2 punch with Landeskog the power forward and Kadri cleaning up. Not to mention Makar. The Avalanche are a handful. The only question is in net. Can Kuemper stay healthy? They’re not good defensively. We’ll see where they wind up.
Nothing else worth mentioning happened the final part of the game. It was a thorough ass kicking by a proven opponent. I’m curious to see what happens in the rematch. Hopefully, they’ll have Igor Shesterkin back. He’s expected to practice on Thursday.
With Gallant giving Huska a baptism by fire, that gave Alex Georgiev the night off. You have to figure he’ll get the call in Buffalo on Friday. Then if he’s ready, perhaps Shesterkin returns for Sunday.
There’s no sense in getting too upset over this loss. They were due for a bad game.
THREE STARS 🌟 OF GAME
3rd 🌟 Jacob Trouba, NYR (goal, assist, fight for 2nd consecutive Gordie Howe hat trick joining Doug Risebrough as only players to record two in back-to-backs)
2nd 🌟 Mikko Rantanen, Avalanche (2 goals, #’s 11 & 12, 5 SOG, +2 in 19:39)
1st 🌟 Nazem Kadri, Avalanche (goal plus 2 🍎, +4 in 12:54)