NEW YORK, N.Y. – Ryan Callahan heard the Madison Square Garden crowd roar loudly each time he scored for the New York Rangers against Colorado.
Those cheers seemed more special this time because the captain’s run on Broadway could soon be over. The adoration surely sounded much nicer to Callahan than all the recent trade talk.
Callahan shook that off and scored two first-period goals to lead New York to its fourth straight win, 5-1 over the Avalanche on Tuesday night.
Callahan is eligible for free agency after the season, and if he doesn’t reach a new contract agreement with the Rangers before two upcoming trade deadlines, he could be sent packing.
“I try not to bring that business to the rink,” Callahan said. “I try to concentrate on the Rangers and what we’re doing here. That’s my main focus.
“That is where I want to be, on the ice playing for the Rangers.”
Callahan staked New York to a 2-0 lead with goals 3:19 apart. Defenceman Anton Stralman added his first of the season in the second period, and Derick Brassard and Brad Richards scored in the third—with an assist from Callahan—in the Rangers’ 10th win in 13 games.
After Callahan was stopped with a chance at a hat trick, Brassard made it 4-1 at 1:58. Richards finished the scoring with 1:36 left. Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves for his 297th win, four shy of Mike Richter’s club record.
The Rangers looked well rested after a three-day break and took advantage of the Avalanche, who played for the third time in four days—including an overtime win at New Jersey on Monday.
“I don’t think they came out very hard,” Lundqvist said. “We set the tone.”
Gabriel Landeskog, Lundqvist’s teammate with Sweden in the Olympics, scored in the second, and Russian Olympian Semyon Varlamov stopped 38 shots, but the Avalanche had a four-game winning streak snapped.
The shots were 16-2 in New York’s favour at one point, but the game was still scoreless. Callahan took care of that.
“Even though we didn’t score early, we came out and created chances,” Lundqvist said. “When we finally got that first one, I felt like we were doing so many good things.”
Carl Hagelin chipped the puck away from defenceman Jan Hejda in the Rangers zone and raced up left wing. Hagelin sent a crisp pass across to Callahan, who took it at the bottom of the right circle, shifted to his backhand and scored with 5:44 left in the first.
The Rangers continued their barrage before Callahan connected again.
Brad Richards made a pass from the right circle into the slot to Callahan for a quick one-timer past Varlamov. Callahan raised both arms over his head and then dropped them to his waist as he let out an emphatic yell to celebrate his 11th goal with 2:25 remaining in the frame.
“Ryan’s been playing hard since the first game,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “He’s the captain of the team. He prepares real well and competes every shift.
“Tonight was one of those nights where he did exactly the same thing, except he was able to finish a couple of great setups.”
New York ended the first period with a 20-4 edge in shots.
“Those three days (off) definitely helped us,” Callahan said. “We jumped out in the first and we get that momentum. We seemed to roll with it and never really gave it back.”
Colorado briefly cut the deficit in half when Landeskog turned a faceoff win in the Rangers end into his 17th goal. Lundqvist had kept the Avalanche at bay with a save on a hard shot by Nathan McKinnon during a power play. But following the faceoff, McKinnon sent a pass from below the goal line out front to Landeskog for the goal at 6:37.
The Avalanche were down 31-11 in shots but trailed only 2-1. Just 53 seconds later, the Rangers went back in front by two.
Stralman took a pass from Mats Zuccarello and wristed a shot from just inside the blue line through traffic and past Varlamov for his first goal in 60 games, dating to April 19, 2013.
Colorado had a great opportunity to get back into the game late in the second when back-to-back penalties gave the Avalanche a two-man advantage for 1:50. They spent plenty of time with the puck in the Rangers end, but put very few shots on Lundqvist. When they did, he turned them aside.
“At 2-1, we came right back and made it 3-1, and we killed off that full 5-on-3,” Vigneault said. “Those were probably the biggest points.”
Colorado mustered three shots on that double penalty and 14 overall in the second period, but still faced a two-goal deficit entering the third.
“Five-on-three—you don’t get many of those,” Landeskog said. “We just weren’t good enough.”
NOTES: It was Callahan’s second two-goal game this season. He had scored only twice in his previous 19 games. … Landeskog extended his point streak to seven games (three goals, six assists).