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Stewart leads Avs past Rangers

by Dave Lozo
NEW YORK -- Chris Stewart is finding a little motivation from his older brother can go a long way.

Stewart scored two power-play goals -- including the game winner in the third period -- to lift the Colorado Avalanche to a 3-1 victory against the New York Rangers on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The win gave the Avs a 3-2-0 record on their grueling five-games-in-nine-days road trip.

The goals for Stewart were his fourth and fifth of the season. The 22-year-old took the family goal-scoring lead from his 25-year-old brother, Atlanta Thrashers forward Anthony Stewart, who has 4 goals in 5 games this season.

"I think it's a little healthy competition," said the younger Stewart, who had 28 goals last season while his brother has broken onto the scene this season after scoring 4 goals in his first 105 career games. "It's great to see him coming into his own in this League. If he does outscore me, I'll be more than happy for him. It's good to push each other and it's great competition."

When Stewart shoots his big brother a BBM to let him know about his Monday night in Manhattan, he'll likely mention how he provided the offense for the Avs from right in front of the net.

Stewart got the Avs on the board at 12:41 of the first period by redirecting a pass from defenseman John-Michael Liles over the catching glove of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The 6-foot-2, 228-pounder simply glided into the slot untouched with Rangers defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Dan Girardi standing nearby.

For Liles, it was his League-leading eighth assist.

The game-winner at 7:20 of the third period was set up by Avs center Paul Stastny, who flipped the puck to Stewart near the crease from behind the net. This time it was Michal Rozsival and Steve Eminger who left Stewart unguarded. Once again, Lundqvist was helpless to stop the easy tap-in by Stewart.

"I've just been playing with Stas, and any time you give a player like Stastny time and space on the goal line and me out front, he puts it right on my stick," Stewart said. "It's kind of hard not to score from there."

"He's playing really well," Avs captain Adam Foote said of Stewart. "He's a powerful guy and he can put the puck in the net. Now he's getting better away from the puck."

Special teams were the difference in Friday's game. The Avs (4-2-0) went 2-for-2 on the power play; the Rangers (1-2-1) were 0-for-5. The Rangers have allowed 14 goals in 19 short-handed opportunities this season.

"It's not getting the job done right now," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said of the penalty killing. "We were better tonight about not taking so many penalties, but it's costing us. There are some things we can iron out and we need to do that. You can't win consistently if your special teams aren't there.

"They were better than us tonight on special teams."

The Rangers were playing their first game since losing forwards Marian Gaborik and Chris Drury to injury last week. Gaborik (separated shoulder) and Drury (broken finger) will miss the next 2-to-3 and 6 weeks, respectively, after they were injured in Friday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

One of the players who will have to step up is Alexander Frolov, and he did that against the Avs. His goal with 1:51 remaining in the first period tied the score at 1-1 and was his first as a Ranger after signing with the team during the offseason.

Frolov registered 20:22 of ice time against the Avs, the first time in four games this season he's seen the ice for more than 17:14. Rangers coach John Tortorella said Frolov will be a player the team leans on while Gaborik and Drury are on the mend.

"I thought he was strong on the puck tonight in the corners," Tortorella said of Frolov. "You hope (scoring) helps his confidence. He's going to be an important guy for us to kick in some goals. I thought he gave us some good minutes."

After Frolov's goal, the game remained tied for nearly 30 minutes before Stewart put the Avs ahead for good. Daniel Winnik scored his second of the season 26 seconds later to give the Avs some breathing by slamming home a puck that took a crazy bounce and eluded Lundqvist, who made 31 saves and was strong throughout.

But Avs goaltender Craig Anderson was even better, stopping 31 shots on the way to his third win in five starts. Anderson's heart had to jump into his throat when he ventured behind his net to play the puck, only to hand it right to Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky.

Anderson scrambled back to his net to rob Dubinsky to keep the game scoreless.

"I was just trying to get him on the scoresheet," Anderson joked about his misplay. "He's a good player and chances are if he gets the opportunity again, he won't miss."

It's easy to have a few laughs after getting a win to close a long road trip. After all, a 4-2-1 stretch away from home to start last season vaulted the Avs into a playoff position they wouldn't relinquish. Now they can hope that some quality time with each other to start this season will have the same benefit.

"We got a young bunch of guys who like to hang out together," Anderson said. "This really gives us an opportunity to bond as a team and come together off the ice. Because when you're better friends and better teammates off the ice, it shows on the ice."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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