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Rangers win fourth straight, defeat Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com

DENVER -- Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves for the New York Rangers, who moved into first place in the Metropolitan Division with a 2-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Friday.

The Rangers (9-2-2), lead the Washington Capitals by two points. They have won four games in a row and have gone 6-0-2 in the past eight games.

Derek Stepan and Oscar Lindberg scored goals 21 seconds apart in the second period to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead they were able to protect with efficient penalty killing and solid work from Lundqvist, who made 14 saves in the third period.

"I think it starts with trust, confidence, believing in each other and the system," said Lundqvist, who has allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of his 11 starts. "We gave up a few chances and shots, but overall I thought we had it under control. A couple of times the puck was bouncing a little bit, but they came hard. They played their best in the third. For two periods, I felt like we were the better team."

The Avalanche (4-9-1) have lost two games in a row, are 2-7-1 in their past 10 games and 1-6-1 in games decided by one goal.

Stepan scored a power-play goal at 12:42 of the second period from the left slot to tie the game 1-1. Ryan McDonagh started the play when he launched a shot off the end boards that caromed back over the net to Mats Zuccarello, who made a quick pass to Stepan.

The Rangers went ahead when McDonagh passed from the left corner behind the net to Lindberg, who was along the goal line on the right side. He flipped the puck toward the net and it went in off goalie Reto Berra's blocker at 13:03.

"I was looking for a pass in the slot, [Kevin] Hayes had a guy on him, so I thought shoot it at the net and see if a rebound comes out," said Lindberg, who leads NHL rookies with seven goals. "I'm in a flow right now, so that makes it easy to shoot. As soon as I see an opportunity to shoot I don't think twice about it, I just shoot. I didn't expect to score this many goals. I'm not trying to think about it too much, I'm just trying to play."

Berra played well in his first home start of the season and finished with 31 saves, but he wasn't happy about allowing what turned out to be the winning goal.

"I want the second goal back," he said. "I have to close the short side and I closed it. It hit the top of my blocker. I think it would go wide if my blocker was not there. Yeah, maybe they had some lucky bounces sometimes and we are working so hard trying to get them, (but) we don't get them."

New York killed off two Colorado power plays late in the period to retain the lead, another in the third and four of five overall while permitting six total shots.

"We had some decent chances, but they did a good job," Avalanche forward Matt Duchene said. "They checked us up ice and we weren't able to get as organized as we probably would have liked to coming into the zone. They pressured really hard. It was disappointing not to get another [goal]. They played really aggressive, that's what they do and we knew it was coming."

Nathan MacKinnon gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 7:13 of the first period. He maneuvered around Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi in the left corner, moved to the net and used McDonagh as a partial screen before shooting the puck under Lundqvist's outstretched glove.

The Rangers had killed 19 consecutive penalties in their past eight games.

"The big thing there was not to get frustrated being down 1-0," Lundqvist said. "I thought our penalty kill stepped up big time."

MacKinnon was hit on the right hand with under a minute to play Thursday in the Avalanche's 4-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes and it was unclear if he would be in the lineup.

"It's a little sore, but I'm all right," said MacKinnon, who took six shots and two faceoffs, one each in the second and third periods." It was pretty painful (Thursday night), more of a stinger. It's all right, I'll be OK."

The Avalanche lost left wing Alex Tanguay to a knee injury when he drew a tripping penalty from Lindberg with 1:36 left in the second period. He took one shift in the third and didn't return.

The Rangers played without left wing Rick Nash, who is listed as day-to-day after he sustained a back injury in practice Thursday.

"I thought we played a strong game tonight," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We were down by a goal, but our first period was real strong. I thought both ends of the rink, the second period, we were able to get a big power-play goal. Right after the power play, come right back and score. Our penalty kill did a great job tonight. That team came at us hard and we were able to get the job done."

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