|Copyright Getty Images|
An Avalanche struck MSG tonight. At least it wasn't a real one with a virtuoso performance on display from Colorado netminder Semyon Varlamov. The Russian was brilliant in making 41 saves to backstop the Avs past the Rangers 3-1. It was our second straight defeat and now the sizzling Pens are two points out with their extra game tomorrow versus hated Pennsylvania rival Philly. After the way they manhandled the Devils as Hasan noted here, it looks like it's a foregone conclusion that they'll tie us by Monday when we host New Jersey.
The way it's gone for both Hudson rivals this week, there should be an awful lot of blood at stake in the final regular season meeting tomorrow. One which we'll be at in Section 411. To be perfectly blunt, both teams need the game. The Devils to stay afloat in the race for fourth or fifth and the Blueshirts if they want to fight off the Pens for the top spot. Considering that the Flyers picked up a brownie point in a shootout loss at Boston, we're only five points ahead of them. Yes. Unfortunately, it really is time to start scoreboard watching. Especially if the Rangers continue their inconsistency.
However, they couldn't be faulted for last night. Not the way they battled against a desperate Colorado club locked in a crazy five-team race (or is it six) out West. Trailing thanks to a Gabriel Landeskog deflection that steered the visitors in front, the Rangers threw everything but the kitchen sink at the former Cap netminder who the Avalanche gave up a first round pick for. They fired 14 of 41 shots in the third but never found a way past Varlamov, who was a human brick wall. Ironically enough as one of our fans tweeted, he did the same thing to us once in the playoffs. Never the less, it still was impressive how well he saw the puck. Even through traffic and miraculously good power plays, Varlamov was the difference.
“I think their goalie kind of saved the day for them,” Henrik Lundqvist said afterwards in the loser's locker room. “We played really well. We created a lot of chances. If we just get another goal, maybe two more goals, I think we’d all sit in here and feel pretty good about ourselves.”
Far from displeased after his team outshot Colorado 42-19, John Tortorella thought it was one of our best efforts. Ironically Lundqvist (17 saves), Ryan Callahan (7 SOG, 25+ mins) and Mike Del Zotto (25:20) all returned. Only Artem Anisimov sat out with a shoulder injury sustained in a loss to Pittsburgh. Gee. Who else would it come against? Despite being healthier, they only could muster one goal and it didn't come from the RHG line (Richards-Hagelin-Gaborik). But rather recently recalled Mats Zuccarello, who tipped in a Dan Girardi pass for his first of the season. He saw a lot of power play time late and also nearly tied it off a faceoff win, only to see his shot ring off the post. Zuccarello makes things happen, which is why it's ridiculous that it took this long to recall him. He adds more skill which our team sorely lacks.
Sorry. But Brandon Dubinsky ain't getting it done. Oh. The try is always there with him making a good rush and shot only to see Varlamov harmlessly glove it the same way he robbed Ryan McDonagh earlier. McDonagh's shot came with traffic and was labeled that the athletic netminder grabbed. Such is life when you face a hot goalie at this time of year. Teams are more desperate and that's what we're seeing with our team dropping five of its last seven. They still have time to right the ship. The playoffs are a certainty. Home ice is still in their grasp. It's up to them.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Jan Hejda, Col (28 shifts-23:10 vs top line, 3 hits, 4 blocked shots)
2nd Star-Gabriel Landeskog, Col (game winning goal-21st of season at 9:51 of 2nd)
1st Star-Semyon Varlamov, Col (41 saves incl. 14/14 in 3rd)
Notes: As speculated, D Tim Erixon returned from Connecticut and took 12 shifts, finishing minus-one in 9:57. ... Anisimov and Steve Eminger sat out. ... C Derek Stepan has a six-game goal drought and only one point during that span. He started the month hot with a four-game point streak but hasn't been the same since Tortorella switched lines. Perhaps he should try Zuccarello next game over Dubinsky. With his next point, Stepan will surpass his rookie total. He's 15-30-45 in 71 GP. ... Landeskog's goal put him in first by a point over the Devils' Adam Henrique.
TRACKING THE CALDER
1.Landeskog, Avs 74 47
2.Henrique, Devs 64 46
3.Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers 51 45
4.Read, Flyers 68 41
5.Hagelin, Rangers 53 35