Ryan O’Reilly said it was, “Probably the worst game of hockey I’ve played all year.” Jamie McGinn called it, “Unfortunate.”
Cody McLeod talked about how the Avs got punched in the mouth, so to speak.
The last time the Avalanche and Rangers met was the week before the NHL’s Olympic break, on the second stop of Colorado’s season-long four-game road trip through the Metropolitan Division. An overtime victory against the Devils the night before, paired with a four-games-in-six-days stretch, had the Avs a tired and ragged bunch and it showed in a 5-1 loss at Madison Square Garden.
Ryan Callahan, since traded to Tampa Bay for Martin St. Louis, had two goals in New York’s win, and Brad Richards, Derick Brassard and Anton Stralman also found the net in a game many of the Avs had to revisit this morning during post-morning skate interviews at Pepsi Center.
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog scored earlier in the second period, pulling the Avs within 2-1, but the Rangers responded a minute later and dished out a dizzying win.
The Avalanche (48-21-6) came into that game on a four-game winning streak, and it brings the same into tonight’s rematch.
“It’s a different situation,” Avs coach Patrick Roy said. “Last time, we played the night before in New Jersey. I think we were a little bit tired, and the Rangers played really well—they were on a pretty good streak. They outplayed us big time in the first period.”
“I think I was dash-five (minus-5) that game,” O’Reilly said. “I’m looking at this game as a time to regroup and show these guys that we’re a real team. ‘You pushed us around that night, and we didn’t play very well.’ We have something to prove tonight to them.”
The Rangers (43-30-4) had won three straight before these teams’ last meeting, and they’re again playing well for the rematch. New York downed Vancouver 3-1 on Tuesday night to win for the seventh time in eight games eighth out of 10.
St. Louis, who was acquired on Trade Deadline day, scored his 30th goal of the season but first with New York in the win against the Canucks.
The Avalanche recovered from that early-February loss, of course, and last Saturday clinched a spot in this year’s playoffs. Still, there’s much to be gained from a solid end to the season—Colorado and Chicago continue to battle for second in the Central, and St. Louis is still just seven points away in first.
Tonight’s game, though, is about a narrower focus. The Avalanche wants a bit of payback.
“We have to be dominant in our home building, in front of our fans. It’s about the start—we have to start quick and show them that we’re ready to go.”
With their playoff spot already secured there’s been some speculation about the Avs’ remaining goaltending schedule.
The team, clearly, would like to rest Semyon Varlamov as much as possible over the next 10 days (seven games), but second place in the Central Division and home-ice advantage in the first round of the postseason is still in the balance.
Roy said this morning that he plans for Varlamov to start at least four of the Avalanche’s remaining seven games, including tonight against the Rangers, Saturday in St. Louis, Sunday against Pittsburgh and Thursday night in Vancouver.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere is the likely start Tuesday at Edmonton, and Reto Berra is penciled in for Friday’s game in San Jose. That leaves a question mark for only the team’s regular-season finale Sunday, April 13, at Anaheim.
“We’ll see what happens for the last game of the season,” Roy said.
Varlamov brings into Thursday’s game career highs in games (59) and starts (56) this season, and he had a season-high 47 saves his last time on the Pepsi Center ice, leading the Avs past San Jose 3-2 and into this year’s playoffs field.
At a career-high 38 wins overall and 23 at home, Varlamov is just two wins shy of tying Roy’s franchise single-season mark and one off his franchise single-season home wins mark.
“I was thinking of not playing him,” Roy told reporters with a smile this morning. “But Jean Martineau (the Avs’ Vice President of Communications and Business Operations) made me change my mind! Hopefully [Varlamov] does it. Hopefully he’s going to tie and then Pittsburgh he’s going to pass it. I’d be very happy.”
About Talbot playing at center, which Roy utilized a bit Tuesday night in Columbus:
“[Talbot] played center in the past,” Roy said, “and I asked him many times if he was comfortable, and he said he was. I thought that line brought some physicality in our game against Columbus, and I think Bordy deserved to play. He’s been playing well, and I think he deserves a little more ice time.”
» Varlamov (23-9-3 at Pepsi Center this year) tonight can tie Roy's franchise record for home wins in a single season (24 in 2000-01), and his 38 wins overall lead the league and are two shy of Roy's record set in 2000-01.
“He’s been, hands down, our best player all year,” O’Reilly said. “He’s been our most consistent player. Every night he’s shown up and gave us a chance at winning. Without him I don’t think we’d be in this situation. He’s a huge reason why we have success.”
“It’s nice to see him get close to these records, because he’s been doing everything he can to help us win.”
» Landeskog has five goals and seven points in the last four games after he scored his second career overtime goal Tuesday night in Columbus after tying the game late in the third period.
» Stastny has points in four straight games (one goal, four assists).
» The Avs are 27-4-6 in one-goal games this season, giving them the best winning percentage in the NHL (.730). Colorado's 27 one-goal wins are also a league high.
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