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Tanguay helps Avalanche defeat Rangers in shootout

by Mike G. Morreale

NEW YORK -- Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy was adamant about needing to see more urgency and determination in an attempt to turn the season around.

Alex Tanguay put the finishing touches on an effort Colorado can certainly build upon when he scored the decisive goal in the third round of a shootout to give the Avalanche a 4-3 victory against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

Tanguay skated down the middle of the ice toward the goal before cutting to his left and lofting a shot over fallen Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

"I have to be more patient; it's not good enough," Lundqvist said. "You are going to face some good players and they are going to wait for you to make a move. I feel like I dropped too fast, I tried to be a little more aggressive and come out a little bit more. Next time I'll try to improve it and get that point."

Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov then stopped Rangers forward Lee Stempniak to end Colorado's two-game losing streak.

"I thought our guys showed great urgency and really worked hard, which was something we wanted to see," Roy said.

Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon scored on the first attempt in the shootout before Rangers center Derek Stepan evened it in the second round. Varlamov stopped Mats Zuccarello in the tiebreaker.

"We knew we had to be strong and resilient against them because they are a very good team," MacKinnon said. "They went to the [Stanley Cup] Final last year. We had a fortunate bounce when we needed it in the third and found a way to win in the shootout."

Matt Duchene, Tanguay and MacKinnon scored for the Avalanche (5-8-5) in regulation. Kevin Hayes, Stepan and Dan Girardi scored for the Rangers (7-6-3).

Each goalie was sharp. Lundqvist made 26 saves and Varlamov stopped 30 shots.

MacKinnon scored a power-play goal 7:54 into the third period to tie the game 3-3. After taking a feed from Zach Redmond in the left circle, MacKinnon took a slap shot that deflected off the stick of Girardi and went between the pads of Lundqvist.

MacKinnon's fifth goal was the first on the power play for the Avalanche in the past 20 opportunities.

Varlamov had to come up big in several key moments to keep the Avalanche close or the game tied.

He denied Dominic Moore on a breakaway with 1:12 left in the second period and made a brilliant stop on a quick shot by Chris Kreider 3:33 into the third period to keep Colorado within 3-2. Varlamov made another great stop 11:20 into the third, getting his blocker on a rising snap shot in the slot by Rick Nash with the game tied 3-3. Varlamov took a shot off his mask at 17:28 and made stops on Martin St. Louis and Mats Zuccarello in the final three seconds of regulation.

"I thought [Varlamov] was equal to the team; everybody played hard," Roy said. "I thought we did a good job in front of him and I thought our defense worked really well. He came solid a couple times in the third on some great plays in the slot area."

The Rangers took their first lead late in the second period after sustained pressure by linemates Kreider, Stepan and Zuccarello. They maintained possession of the puck for 1:13 in the Avalanche end before Zuccarello found Girardi at the left post for a tip-in at 17:02. It was Girardi’s first goal of the season.

Stepan scored his first of the season 15:19 into the second to tie the game 2-2. After taking a pass from Nash in the neutral zone, Stepan broke in 2-on-1 and took a shot from the right circle that beat Varlamov over his short-side shoulder. The assist by Nash gave him a point in 12 of 16 games this season.

"Obviously you don't want to give up leads but as we move forward we learn from it," Stepan said. "There's not much we can do about it now. We got one point, had a chance at a second one."

Lundqvist came up big on several occasions throughout the second period, in which he turned away nine shots.

"Colorado had a strong first period but after that I felt like we took the game over and did a lot of good things," Lundqvist said. "[It was a] tough bounce on the third goal [by MacKinnon] but we played well overall."

The Avalanche opened the second in good shape, outshooting the Rangers 6-0, but New York tied it 1-1 when Hayes scored his second of the season during a delayed penalty at 6:42. The Rangers maintained possession of the puck for 40 seconds after the penalty was indicated before Hayes swept in a rebound off Varlamov's right pad at the left post.

Colorado took a 2-1 lead when Tanguay redirected a great pass from the slot by Erik Johnson past Lundqvist at 11:09. But the Avalanche, as has been the case all season, couldn't sustain the effort that enabled them to grab the lead. For the season, Colorado has been outscored 23-13 in the second period.

"I thought Tanguay's line [with Ryan O'Reilly and Duchene] was very good," Roy said. "But I really liked all four lines. I thought everybody had a strong game. We played well for the first 35 minutes in the first two periods and all I wanted to see from our guys was a strong 20 minutes [in the third]. I think we did a good job."

The Avalanche, coming off a 6-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday, were a more determined team in the first period, outshooting the Rangers 12-6. The effort paid off at 15:09 when Duchene scored his fifth goal of the season. Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie took a shot from the right point and Duchene side-stepped John Moore before knocking home the rebound.

"We had a really good start and I thought we had a good jump in the first but unfortunately for us it was only 1-0," Roy said.

The Avalanche finish a four-game road trip against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Saturday.

Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle, who was playing in his first game since breaking his hand early in the third period of New York's season opener on Oct. 9, played 22:14 on 31 shifts. He finished with three shots on goal.

"To steal Derek Stepan's line about three games ago, 'A case of the rust' I believe is what he said," Boyle said. "It was what I thought it was going to be. The legs and the hands were a step behind, but for somebody who is 17, 18 games behind the rest of the guys, I did some good things and some things will obviously get better as I play more."

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