NEW YORK – If John Tortorella took any personal satisfaction from his first win as coach of the New York Rangers, he hid it well.
Just three games into his first fulltime stint behind the bench, Tortorella guided his new club to its biggest offensive breakout of the season. Ryan Callahan and Nikolai Zherdev scored in the first 68 seconds, and the Rangers rolled to a 6-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.
Tortorella, who took over Monday for the fired Tom Renney, dropped a pair of 2-1 decisions before seeing his aggressive style produce in bunches.
“This isn’t about me,” Tortorella said. “It’s about a hockey team trying to find its way, that’s gone through a little bit of an ordeal here the past few weeks. We’re just trying to clear our heads. It’s about a team trying to get into the playoffs.”
Petr Prucha and Scott Gomez also scored in New York’s second four-goal first period. The Rangers jumped two points in front of Florida into sixth place in the Eastern Conference after dropping 12 of 14 games (2-8-4).
The Rangers (32-24-8) are three points above the playoff cutoff and four behind fourth-place Philadelphia.
New York captain Chris Drury added to the onslaught when he snapped a career-worst, 17-game goal drought with a 5-on-3 power-play tally at 4:56 of the second. Markus Naslund reached 20 goals for the 10th straight season in the third.
“We are starting to get the system down,” said Gomez, who also had two assists. “We are starting to get a feel for how he wants us to play. It was important for us to get the two points.”
The game deteriorated into a street fight in the closing minutes as several brawls delayed the inevitable ending.
After starting a six-game trip at Washington, Colorado has dropped four straight. The Avalanche, last in the West, will visit the New York Islanders on Monday.
“Obviously we’re not happy with our positioning,” said Darcy Tucker, who fought New York’s Paul Mara. “We’ve just got to continue to work hard and move forward and try to be as tight as we can and stick together.”
The only suspense was gone with 6:55 left in the second when Ryan Smyth snapped Henrik Lundqvist’s shutout bid. By then, the Rangers had built a 5-0 lead against the ineffective goalie tandem of Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft.
Tortorella, winless in a four-game stint as Rangers coach in 2000, said before the game he had begun to get to know his new players and that they are grasping the up-tempo, pressure style he wants to play.
After a video session Friday, the Rangers put what they learned into action. New York had scored more than two goals once during their skid and none in their previous 14 losses.
The Rangers will have four days of off-ice preparation before their next game.
“After the week there is definitely no more excuses,” Gomez said. “If you’re not on his page, he said you’ll find yourself on the bench pretty quick.”
Callahan got things started when he helped force a turnover and then took a perfect feed from Brandon Dubinsky to make it 1-0 at 28 seconds. Unlike Thursday’s home loss to Florida, when New York had a goal waved off 17 seconds in, this one stuck.
Zherdev doubled the lead at 1:08 when he took a pass in front and pinballed the puck off the skate of defenceman Ruslan Salei on the Rangers’ third shot.
Prucha, given a second chance under Tortorella after being a regular scratch by Renney, made it 3-0 with 6:36 left in the period.
That sent Budaj to the bench after he faced nine shots. New York needed 1:38 and one shot to solve Raycroft as Gomez pushed the lead to 5-0 when he tipped in Marc Staal’s slap shot.
“It definitely wasn’t the start we expected,” Budaj said. “It starts with me. We have to be better than that. It’s disappointing and pretty embarrassing.”
Gomez slithered a pass through the crease to Drury, who scored for the first time since Jan. 16 at Chicago, to make it 5-1, and Naslund closed the scoring with 5:11 remaining.
Notes: The Rangers are 26-3-2 when they score at least three goals. … New York snapped an 0-5-2 skid against the Avalanche, beating them for the first time since Nov. 20, 2001. The Avalanche took the previous meeting in New York on Dec. 18, 2005. … The Rangers were one of four teams without a 20-goal scorer.