The New York Rangers hope an overpowering effort in their latest game is representative of how they’ll play the rest of a season in which they’ve been mostly inconsistent.
The Colorado Avalanche’s last result could be indicative of what’s in store for them for the remainder of 2014-15.
The Rangers look to avoid a letdown Thursday night when they host the Avalanche, who were getting blown out nearby at the same time New York was putting together its best performance of the season.
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The Rangers (7-6-2) all but erased the memory of disheartening losses to Toronto and Edmonton during the weekend with a stunning 5-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Facing a team that had won seven straight by a 33-8 margin, they dominated at both ends.
Five players scored and Rick Nash is tied for the NHL lead with 12 goals after delivering New York’s first short-handed tally of the season, while adding two assists. Henrik Lundqvist made 33 saves for his third shutout and team-record 53rd.
”Not one guy in this room was happy or was going to accept the way we played the last game (a 3-1 home loss to the Oilers),” defenseman Marc Staal said. ”We wanted to respond. We know what kind of team we are. We just have to get the confidence to play like that consistently.”
The Rangers’ depth, a major asset last season that has been a question mark in 2014-15, proved to be a strong point again as coach Alain Vigneault rolled four lines, with Derek Stepan’s 16 minutes, 37 seconds being the most ice time among forwards.
That depth appears likely to increase Thursday as defenseman Dan Boyle, out since breaking his hand in the season opener, is set to return.
"I think it’s one win, and it all depends how we come back and answer on Thursday," Nash, who has three goals in his last four games, told the team’s official website. "We’ll enjoy this one tonight, then it’s back to work for Thursday."
A poor performance against Colorado would certainly qualify as a step back after the Avalanche fell 6-0 to the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday. The Avs were outshot 46-20 – including 18-7 in the third period, which they entered trailing 4-0 – for their fifth loss in six games.
The 2013-14 Central Division champions with 112 points, time is running out for Colorado to dismiss its play as just a bad start. Shut out once last season, the Avs (4-8-5) have been blanked three times already.
”It’s beyond frustrating at this point,” center Matt Duchene said. ”We’re taking way too many penalties and we’re not being smart with the puck.”
Colorado was short-handed six times for the second straight game and leads the league with 71 such situations. Its last three opponents have gone 5 for 14 on the power play.
"We need to stick together. We need to continue to work hard with the things that we have been doing well," coach Patrick Roy told the Avs’ website. "Tonight was just a bad game. We need to regroup tomorrow, have a good practice and be ready for the Rangers."
A matchup with New York might be what Colorado needs to start getting on track. The Avs have taken four of the past five matchups, though the Rangers won the most recent meeting at Madison Square Garden 5-1 on Feb. 4.
Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, who’s given up 11 goals over his last two starts, is 3-2-0 with a 3.36 goals-against average in five career starts in this series.