Rapid Reaction: Avalanche 3, Rangers 1

March, 17, 2012
3/17/12
9:36
PM ET
What it means: The tides sure seem to be turning for the Rangers, who now lead the Eastern Conference standings by only two points with the Pittsburgh Penguins roaring right behind. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov's stunning 41-save effort robbed the Rangers of a victory as he single-handedly secured a 3-1 win for Colorado. Varlamov made arguably his best save of the night to deny Brad Richards on one of the Rangers' two power-plays in the third period; New York was blanked on all five man-up opportunities Saturday.

Callahan returns: After missing three straight games by a lingering foot injury, captain Ryan Callahan returned and registered a team-leading seven shots on goal in 25:04 of ice time. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto also returned to log more than 25 minutes. The young blue-liner, who has been hampered by a recent hip injury, played 25:20.

Top-line stopped: After combining for 15 points in the two games heading into Saturday's match, the Rangers potent top line of Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik were held off the scoresheet against a stingy Colorado team. Mats Zuccarello scored the lone goal for the Rangers in the first period.

Rookie wonder: Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog snapped a tie game in the second period, with his deflection of Ryan Wilson’s slapshot at 9:51. The Swedish winger, drafted second overall by the Avalanche this past June, has 21 goals and 26 assists in what is shaping up to be a Calder-caliber season. With his second-period marker, he surpassed Devils rookie Adam Henrique for the scoring lead with 47 points.

Nice move, Matt: Avalanche blue-liner Matt Hunwick made a slick move to undress Rangers defenseman Stu Bickel and tie the game at 1 with 4:59 remaining in the first. Hunwick was awarded his 3rd goal of the season after his shot glanced off the stick of Marian Gaborik past Lundqvist.

First-timer: Mats Zuccarello recorded his first goal of the season, with a deflection of defenseman Dan Girardi’s wrist shot at 10:13 of the first. The diminutive Norwegian forward, who gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead, called up last week from the AHL’s Connecticut Whale to replace an injured Callahan.

Injured front: Although the Rangers returned Callahan and Del Zotto to the lineup, they were without defenseman Steve Eminger and forward Artem Anisimov. Defenseman Anton Stralman was a healthy scratch, because he “wasn’t playing well,” according to coach John Tortorella.

Up next: Rangers vs. Devils, Monday at 7:30 p.m.
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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