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Special teams the difference vs. Avs

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Veteran forward Todd White, obtained in a trade last summer, made his Rangers debut against the Avs, entering the Blueshirts lineup as a result of the injuries to forwards Chris Drury and Marian Gaborik.

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By Jim Cerny,

Monday’s back-and-forth battle at Madison Square Garden between the Rangers and Colorado Avalanche was one that was ultimately decided by a series of power plays -- those the Rangers could not convert and those that the Avalanche did.

As a result, the Rangers dropped their third straight contest, falling to Colorado 3-1.

“That was the game right there,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “We get no goals and no momentum off of our power play and they score (on theirs).”

The Rangers finished the night 0-for-5 on the power play, while Colorado scored each of their first two goals in the game with the man-advantage, going 2-for-3 on the power play.

Most difficult to swallow for Tortorella and his team was a stretch that bridged the end of the second period with the early part of the third -- when a 1-1 game swung in favor of the visitors due to special teams play.

The Rangers had 1:41 worth of a power play carry-over from the second into the third, and after that power play was stymied, Colorado took another penalty at 2:47 of the final period, but killed that one off, too. Finally handed their own power-play opportunity when Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto was whistled for tripping at 5:51, the Avalanche cashed in with the eventual game-winning goal.

“Obviously it’s frustrating,” said defenseman Marc Staal, who was chosen to be an alternate captain since Vinny Prospal will miss the next six-to-eight weeks of action following knee surgery on Monday. “I thought that neither team was getting much 5-on-5 and both were playing pretty well defensively. It kind of came down to the special teams, and they were better than us on special teams.”

Colorado had scored on the game’s first power play 12:41 into the opening period when Chris Stewart deflected a John-Michael Liles’ slap shot from the right point past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Rangers forward Alex Frolov heads to the net on his way to scoring his first goal as a Blueshirt at 18:09 of the first period on Monday night at The Garden.
Although the Rangers pulled even on Alex Frolov’s first goal with the Blueshirts at 18:09 of the first period -- an even strength score -- they failed on five consecutive power play opportunities between the first and third periods, leaving the door open for the Avalanche to steal a road win.

“I don’t think we won many battles there and I don’t think we got many good looks,” Tortorella said of his team’s play on the power play. “I think our power play has had some good looks along the way even though it hasn’t scored, but not (Monday) night.”

Granted a power play for the first time since Stewart cashed in with Michal Rozsival in the penalty box in the opening period, the Avs struck again at 7:40 of the third with Del Zotto sitting in the box.

Once again, it was Stewart getting strong position in front of Lundqvist to slam dunk a centering feed from Paul Stastny for his fifth goal of the season. To make matters worse, 26 seconds later Daniel Winnik poked a loose puck over the goal line to give the Avalanche a two-goal lead at 3-1.

“They got two quick ones there in the third, but we have to stay positive because we are so close,” said Lundqvist, who made 31 saves. “They were good, and their power play moved the puck very well. We have to keep working hard. That’s our only option.”

Allowing a pair of goals only 26 seconds apart in the third period certainly cost the Rangers the game on Monday night. But Tortorella and many of his players felt that success on their own power play earlier would have guaranteed that the game would never have reached that point tied 1-1.

“We have to score goals because you’re not going to win many games when you score one goal,” said Del Zotto, who logged 25:48 worth of ice-time on Monday. “On the power play we had some chances, but didn’t capitalize. At the end of the day if you score one goal, chances are you are not winning the game.”

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist makes one of his 31 saves on Monday night as Avs defenseman Scott Hannan crashes the net during the first period.
Playing without injured veterans Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury, and Prospal, the Rangers still managed 32 shots against Colorado netminder Craig Anderson. And the team did play a very physical game with plenty of grit and spunk.

Lundqvist stood out with some outstanding work in goal, most notably in the first period when he made 16 saves and early in the third when he denied T.J. Galiardi on a shorthanded breakaway and Winnik on another breakaway a few minutes later.

Offensively, Frolov clearly took on added responsibility with all of the injuries up front for the Blueshirts. He scored his first goal as a Ranger off a 2-on-1 rush with Staal when his shot bounced off of defenseman Kyle Quincey and over the goal line. Frolov had many other scoring chances, finishing with four shots on goal while playing more than 20 minutes, mainly alongside rookie center Derek Stepan and veteran winger Ruslan Fedotenko.

“I thought he was strong on the puck (Monday) night and in the corners where he won a lot of battles,” Tortorella said of Frolov. “I hope (the goal) helps his confidence because he’s going to be an important guy to kick in some goals here.”

The Rangers will regroup with a pair of practices on Tuesday and Wednesday before returning to action on Thursday night up in Toronto, where they will face-off with the Maple Leafs.
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