The Rangers, riding the high off their surging start to the season, quickly found out just where they measure up to one of the NHL’s most complete teams.
Spoiler: The Blueshirts were looking straight up.
In the second game of their back-to-back and with a fourth-string goaltender making his NHL debut, the Blueshirts gave up five goals in the middle frame on the way to a jarring 7-3 loss to the Avalanche on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The loss not only snapped the Rangers’ seven-game win streak, but it served as a reminder of what kind of teams lay ahead in this 82-game schedule.
Entering Wednesday’s matchup with the highest goals per game average (4.14) and tied for the third-most goals (91) in the NHL, Colorado has now scored 68 goals in 13 games. Plus, the Avs have net five or more in four of their last six games.
While the Rangers have one of the best records in the NHL at 17-5-3, a majority of their schedule has come against lower-to-middle-tier teams. Aside from an overtime win over the Maple Leafs four games into the season, a tight victory over the Panthers and a competitive win over the Bruins, the Rangers have fallen short against the upper-echelon clubs they’ve faced.
The Avalanche joined that list Wednesday night, coming in as advertised and pounding the Rangers’ zone from puck drop. Outshooting the Rangers 19-9 through the opening 20 minutes, and 39-30 on the night, Colorado disrupted the home team through the neutral zone more often than not and then would work the puck in the Rangers’ zone.
Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen buried the first and final goals of the game, while Logan O’Connor scored two goals in the span of 22 seconds in the second period for the 6-2 lead. Colorado center Nazem Kadri also registered a three-point effort with two assists and the go-ahead tally at 6:11 of the middle frame.
The Rangers had managed to build a 2-1 lead heading into the second period, however.
Mikko Rantenen welcomed Rangers goalie Adam Huska to the NHL with a wrist shot that went off the rookie netminder’s blocker and in at 4:11 of the first to put the Avalanche on the board. Roughly 2 ½ minutes later, however, Jacob Trouba netted the equalizer from the top of the zone — which has seemingly become the defenseman’s sweet spot.
After Ryan Strome was called for tripping later in the period, the Rangers penalty kill generated a couple shorthanded scoring chances from Kevin Rooney, but Avs netminder Darcy Kuemper turned aside both shots.
The Rangers didn’t let a second man-advantage opportunity pass them by, with Nils Lundkvist wristing one top-shelf for the 2-1 score. It was the rookie defenseman’s first NHL goal and he celebrated as such, kneeling down to celebrate with a fist pump before falling over out of pure elation.
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