DENVER — The New York Rangers turned a difficult situation into a game-changer against the struggling Colorado Avalanche.
Carl Hagelin scored a tiebreaking goal after the Avalanche rallied to tie and the Rangers survived a third-period rally to beat Colorado 6-3 on Feb. 12.
New York seemed to run out of energy early in the third period, and had to survive a 5-on-3 power play for the Avs.
Kevin Hayes had a goal and two assists and Rick Nash scored his NHL-leading 34th goal and added an assist. Cam Talbot stopped 26 shots for New York.
“I thought Cam played extremely well. Not a tremendous amount of work in the first period, a little more in the second and they blitzed us in the third,” New York coach Alain Vigneault said. “He gave us a chance to battle back and win the game.”
The Rangers have won four of their last six to move into third place in the Metropolitan Division. They are three points behind second-place Pittsburgh and have played one less game than the Penguins.
Jarome Iginla, Gabriel Landeskog and Jan Hejda scored for Colorado, which has lost four straight.
“Right now maybe we squeeze the stick a little too tight,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. “Our confidence is not there. Hopefully it will turn and help us to win some hockey games.”
The Avalanche, a week ago sitting just outside the last playoff spot after winning three of four, have fallen into last place in the Central Division. Colorado is 12th in the Western Conference a season after having the second-best record in the West.
The Avalanche didn’t go down easy. Iginla and Jan Hejda scored 4:01 apart in the third to tie it at 3, but Hagelin gave New York the lead again 1:18 after Hejda tied it. It was his 12th of the season, a shot from short range.
“Obviously it gave us momentum,” Hagelin said. “They were dominating us for 10 minutes in the third. When you give a team like that a lot of room to skate they’re going to make plays.”
Nash made it 5-3 with 4:18 to go and Ryan McDonagh scored into an empty net with 1:01 remaining.
Dan Boyle opened the scoring in the first period with his eighth goal. Hayes made it 2-0 1:47 into the second with his ninth of the year — he skated through nearly all the Avs, around defenseman Tyson Barrie and beat Varlamov with a forehand close in.
“I was thinking, ‘get it deep,’ but there was no one in front of me,” said Hayes, a rookie who had the first multi-point game of his career. “The (defenseman) gave me some space and I cut it back.”
Colorado cut the lead in half when Landeskog scored when a deflected shot went off his chest and past Talbot.
“I thought Landy’s goal was a huge goal to get some momentum back after they were up 2-0,” Iginla said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly good enough.”
The Avalanche had a great chance to tie it when New York took two penalties in a span of 7 seconds. Colorado managed just two shots on the two-man advantage, and soon after Dan Girardi left the penalty box, Mats Zuccarello beat Semyon Varlamov with a wrister to make it 3-1.
“We get one and make it a 2-1 game and get a two-minute 5-on-3,” Landeskog said. “It kind of felt like it deflated us a bit, not discouraged us, but gave them the momentum a little bit. It was a big kill for them.”