That was the message from Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy to his team before Thursday's game at the New York Rangers, and his players followed suit. The Avs came out with a strong first period and rallied in the third to force overtime before grabbing a 4-3 shootout victory at Madison Square Garden.
All three of Colorado's goals came from what Roy wanted his team do, 'put pucks to the net.'
"I think just the desperation. We realized what we had to do," said Alex Tanguay, who scored in regulation and the deciding goal in the shootout. "Patrick gave us a couple points that we needed to work on before the game, and I think we executed. He wanted us to drive the net, wanted us to stop in front, and our first two goals were just that. Screens in front and rebounds and the puck went in."
After the first period, the Avalanche held a 12-6 shots-on-goal advantage and fired a total of 19 shots toward New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist compared to the Rangers' 10 at Semyon Varlamov.
Yet, Colorado only held a 1-0 lead after the first 20 minutes from a rebound goal by Matt Duchene at 15:09.
"We had a really good start," Roy said. "I thought we had a good jump in the first period, and unfortunately for us it was only 1-0."
Duchene's fifth goal of the season came after a shot from Tyson Barrie at the point ricocheted to the right, and the Avs center quickly gained possession of the puck and flipped it short-side top shelf.
It was a play that Barrie said the club practiced earlier in the day at morning skate.
"I think we did a good job of executing," said Barrie, who had two assists and is now tied for fifth among league defensemen with 12 helpers. "It was nothing fancy. Dutchy made a great shot and good hands to put it upstairs there. Obviously that is what he does best, and it was nice to get that."
The Avs' second redlighter came from another instance of throwing the puck toward the goal.
After Duchene's pass through the slot was deflected into the right corner, Erik Johnson came trailing behind to pick up the puck and found Tanguay alone at the top of the crease for an easy tap-in tally in the second period.
"I was just trying to drive the net, EJ made a great play. The defenseman kind of slipped to the corner, I was by myself in front and I slid it on the ice and beat him," Tanguay said. "Always nice to get passes like that."
Colorado's third goal wasn't the same rebound, crashing-the-net type of play, but it again followed what Roy wanted from his players.
Down by one in the third period and on the power play, Colorado knotted the game at 3-3 after MacKinnon received a cross-slot pass from Zach Redmond at the left circle and just threw the puck toward the goal, where Duchene was waiting in front for the rebound.
Duchene never got a chance to touch the puck as MacKinnon's shot went off New York's Dan Girardi and between Lundqvist's legs.
"He had a great chance just before on the power play," Roy said of MacKinnon's tally. "Sometimes you put pucks on net, and you get rewarded. It doesn't always have to be perfect shots."
Other than the final five minutes of the second period when New York scored twice, Colorado played a solid game overall. The Avalanche held the shots advantage throughout the game until the Rangers started firing from everywhere on the ice after MacKinnon tied the contest.
The win for Colorado is a nice rebound after it lost 6-0 to the Islanders two nights earlier and ends a two-game losing streak. Now the team needs to build off it and start getting on a roll.
Something easier said than done.
"We want to get back in the standings," Tanguay said after the game. "We want to get back to being relevant, to being a playoff-contending team and we think we have the ability to do it. Just got to go out and execute.
"We're very happy with our game. We know the next game we start 0-0, and we need to make sure that we come out with a better effort in order to win."
The Avs will have a chance to build on the victory Saturday when they close their East Coast road trip at the New Jersey Devils.
BRIERE BACK IN THE LINEUP
Forward Daniel Briere returned to the Avalanche lineup Thursday after being a healthy scratch the last seven games.
Briere replaced Dennis Everberg, who was scratched for the first time this season after playing in 12 contests with the Avs. Everberg did miss five games while down in the American Hockey League with Lake Erie in late October, but he returned to the Colorado lineup Oct. 30 versus the New York Islanders and had been there ever since.
“I think he deserves to play," Roy said earlier in the day of Briere, who last played Oct. 28 against San Jose. "He’s been working hard in practice, and I think it’s good for Dennis to take a break.”
Briere played right wing on a Nathan MacKinnon-centered line that also had Jamie McGinn on the left side. He finished with two shots in 12:26 of ice time.
LINE SHAKE UP
Roy mixed up his lines for the game against the Rangers, and the change seemed to work.
The biggest change was moving third liners Alex Tanguay and John Mitchell into the team's top six, with Tanguay playing right wing with Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly and Mitchell centering a line with Jarome Iginla and Gabriel Landeskog.
The Duchene-O'Reilly-Tanguay line combined for two of the Avs' goals with Duchene tallying in the first period and Tanguay scoring his team-leading seventh midway in the second period.
“Tanguay’s playing really well," Roy said Thursday morning. "He’s probably our best player since the start of the season."
Nathan MacKinnon centered a line with Jamie McGinn and Daniel Briere on the wings. The fourth line remained unchanged with Cody McLeod and Maxime Talbot playing on the sides of center Marc-Andre Cliche.
MACKINNON GAME NO. 100
Nathan MacKinnon reached another milestone Thursday, though he didn't have to do much work to achieve it, as he played in his 100th NHL game.
The 19-year-old has yet to miss a contest in his professional career. He appeared in all 82 games as a rookie in 2013-14 and has played in all 18 this season.
He scored the game-tying goal at 7:54 of the third period to help the Avs force overtime against the Rangers.