NEW YORK, N.Y. – Forget about rattling the young Colorado Avalanche on the road.
For two straight years the Avalanche have stared down long trips at the start of the season and done far better than the clubs enjoying the comforts of home.
Chris Stewart scored his second power-play goal of the game in the third period, and Daniel Winnik extended Colorado’s lead 26 seconds later as the Avalanche ended a five-game jaunt with a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Monday night.
A year ago, the Avalanche—under rookie coach Joe Sacco—left Denver after just two games for a seven-game journey. They dropped the first two contests, but won the final five. That sparked an unexpected drive to the playoffs.
Another run might now be under way. The Avalanche won their home opener and then went 3-2 on the first of two five-game road trips this season.
“We’ve got a young bunch of guys that like to hang out together,” said Craig Anderson, who stopped 31 Rangers shots. “This really gives us an opportunity to bond as a team, come together off the ice. When you’re better friends and better teammates off the ice, it shows on the ice.”
With the game tied 1-1 and Michael Del Zotto serving a tripping penalty, Stewart shoved down defenceman Steve Eminger in the crease, took a pass from the trapezoid from Paul Stastny, and shoved the puck past goalie Henrik Lundqvist at 7:20. Stewart has a team-leading five goals this season, with at least one in the past three games.
His brother, Anthony, is also off to a quick start with the Atlanta Thrashers, posting four goals in five games.
“It’s great to see him come into his own,” Stewart said. “If he does outscore me, I’ll be more than happy for him. It’s good to push each other.”
Winnik jammed a shot in from in front to make it 3-1 at 7:46. Avalanche defenceman John-Michael Liles earned an assist for the sixth straight game. Anderson earned his third win of the season for Colorado, which went 2-1 against the three New York-area teams.
“We knew going into this trip that it wasn’t going to be easy, but our guys really battled tonight,” Sacco said. “I was proud of the way they played.”
The Rangers forged a 1-1 tie in the first when Alex Frolov answered Stewart’s first of the game, but without injured top-line forwards Marian Gaborik and Chris Drury, New York couldn’t muster much offence. The Rangers went 0 for 5 on the power play for the second straight game, and are 0-2-1 since a season-opening win at Buffalo.
“You can’t have (multiple) minutes of power play time in the third period of a 1-1 game and come up empty,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “That was the game there. We got no momentum off our power play, and they score.”
Lundqvist made 31 saves.
Colorado took a 1-0 lead with 7:19 left in the first period when Stewart scored 11 seconds into the Avalanche’s first power play.
Liles, the Avalanche’s leading scorer with eight points in six games, took a shot from the right circle. Stewart swiveled away from defenceman Marc Staal in front and deftly deflected the drive past Lundqvist.
New York was being greatly outplayed by the Avalanche, who held a 15-4 edge in shots when Tortorella burned his lone timeout with 6:53 remaining in the first.
“I just didn’t want them to blow themselves up,” he said. “We had plenty of hockey to play.”
The Rangers picked up their play and nearly tied it less than two minutes later during an advantage. Michal Rozsival’s drive struck a post behind Anderson and caromed out to the left. Frolov was there, in front of a gaping left side, but fanned on the shot.
He made up for it before the period was finished.
During 4-on-4 play, Frolov broke out of the Rangers’ zone on a 2-on-1 rush with Staal. Frolov held the puck until he was deep in the Avalanche end and slid a pass to his left toward Staal.
Colorado defenceman Kyle Quincey dived to try to thwart the pass, but the puck glided under him toward the net. It got across the line before Staal made sure of the goal by swiping it into the net at 18:09.
It was the first goal with the Rangers for Frolov, who scored 19 with Los Angeles last season.
New York was foiled by the goal post again in the second period when defenceman Dan Girardi hit one.
“You’re not going to win many games when you score one goal,” Del Zotto said. “We had some chances on the power play, but we didn’t capitalize.”
NOTES: Liles tied the Avalanche franchise record for the longest assist streak to start a season. Paul Stastny also had assists in the first six games in 2008. Liles also tied Sandis Ozolinsh’s team mark for consecutive games with a point by a defenceman to start a season. … Rangers LW Vinny Prospal, who has yet to play this season, underwent knee surgery on Monday and is expected to be sidelined for 6-to-8 weeks.