Nichushkin scores 2 goals, Avalanche beat Rangers 4-2
By MICHAEL KELLY
DENVER (AP) Valeri Nichushkin had two goals, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen also scored and the Colorado Avalanche beat the New York Rangers 4-2 on Tuesday night for their fifth straight win.
Nathan MacKinnon had two assists and Darcy Kuemper stopped 26 shots in Colorado's second victory over New York in less than a week. The Avalanche beat the Rangers 7-3 at Madison Square Garden last Wednesday.
Ryan Strome and Julien Gauthier scored and Alexander Georgiev made 27 saves for New York, which has dropped two in a row and three of four following a seven-game winning streak that capped an 11-1 surge.
"You're going to go through stretches in the season. That's part of playing in the NHL," Strome said. "It's a great opportunity for growth. When things are going well sometimes you get a little complacent and sometimes it's a little bit of a reality check. Tonight, although it's a loss, the effort was there."
Nazem Kadri returned from a two-game absence with three assists and leads Colorado with 37 points. But defenseman Devon Toews tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed in the NHL's health and safety protocol.
The Avalanche are also without captain Gabriel Landeskog, expected to miss a couple of weeks with a lower-body injury sustained Friday against Detroit.
Still, they keep winning. Colorado has gone 13-2-1 in its last 16 games despite the roster upheaval.
"We're getting timely goals from different guys every night," coach Jared Bednar said. "That's how you win hockey games. You make plays with the game on the line, offensively and defensively. It's what you need to be a top team in this league. Val, obviously, great play."
Rantanen gave Colorado a 1-0 lead at 12:18 of the first with his 13th goal, and Makar got his 13th on a power play late in the period.
The 13 goals are a career high for Makar, who is in his third season.
"I guess the pucks just seem to be going in right now. I don't think this is going to continue throughout the year," Makar said. "I think it's a little bit heavier pace right now, but a lot of credit goes back to the guys who are moving the puck well and creating lanes. Even the goal I scored tonight, (J.T.) Compher just in front of the net, it doesn't go in if he's not there."
New York broke through midway through the second on Strome's sixth goal to make it 2-1 at 10:36. Nichushkin answered late in the period to restore the two-goal advantage.
Compher appeared to make it 4-1 at 12:12 of the third but the Rangers challenged for goalie interference and the call was reversed.
Gauthier scored at 17:58 with Georgiev off for an extra skater, and Chris Kreider nearly tied it with just more than a minute left. Georgiev was back in net when Nichushkin scored on a breakaway at 19:23, his ninth.
"Late goal to make it 3-2 and then Kreider had two great chances to tie it up," Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. "Part of the game. We never quit."
NOT SO SIMPLER TIMES
New York's previous visit to Denver was March 11, 2020, the last game before the NHL suspended that season due to the pandemic. Colorado won 3-2 in overtime while the sports world was clouded in uncertainty due to rising coronavirus cases.
The NBA had suspended its season that night after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, and the NHL followed suit the next day.
"For me that was the last game I played rookie year," Rangers defenseman Adam Fox said.
NOTES: Toews will be out until after the league's Christmas hiatus. Bednar said Toews is symptomatic. D Justin Barron was recalled from the AHL and made his NHL debut. ... Rangers D Nils Lundkvist was scratched for the second straight game with a non-COVID-19 illness. ... Colorado D Jacob MacDonald was out of the lineup. He left Sunday's game on a stretcher after a hard check but remained at the arena.
Rangers: Play at Arizona on Wednesday night.
Avalanche: Play at Nashville on Thursday night.
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Updated December 15, 2021