DENVER -- Injured Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh wants to return before the postseason, although he still doesn't have full range of movement in his left shoulder and arm.
Without McDonagh, who plays more than 25 minutes a game, the Rangers had to patch and fill on defense Thursday night against the potent Avalanche and gamely hung in for 59:10.
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That's when Tyson Barrie -- with Colorado goalie Seymon Varlamov pulled for an extra attacker -- scored the tying goal, and the Avalanche won in a shootout, 3-2.
In the shootout, Barrie scored on the first Colorado attempt and Mats Zuccarello missed before Varlamov stopped Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards.
"We were in a position to win this game," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Faceoff in our end, win the draw . . . We've got our two most veteran Ds on the ice in the last minute. Both had an opportunity to get it out; sometimes that happens."
Said Henrik Lundqvist: "It's a big point, but still extremely disappointing to lose. We were close. Just a lucky bounce ended up on their stick and I never picked it up until it was in the net.''
The Rangers have 91 points and four games to play. The third-place Flyers -- who lost to Columbus, 2-0 -- have 87 points and six games left. The Rangers need 93 points to clinch a spot. The Leafs still can get 92 if they win their final four games.
Said Vigneault, "Once we clinch, once we get a checkmark by our name, hopefully we can get that come Saturday. Then we have an opportunity to get home ice.''
John Moore, who had missed six games with concussion symptoms but returned in McDonagh's absence, scored at 2:10 of the first period on a slap shot from the point to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Andre Benoit backhanded a shot past Lundqvist at 5:57 of the second when Dan Girardi was caught up ice. Derek Stepan put the Rangers ahead 2-1 with his 16th goal, a wrister from the left circle at 15:30 of the second period.
Lundqvist followed his 38-save effort in Vancouver on Tuesday with 35 saves through overtime Thursday night. He was superb in the third period as the Rangers were outshot 16-3.
McDonagh, who leads the Rangers' defensemen with 14 goals, won't be ready to play when the Rangers face Ottawa at home Saturday, but he said he is confident that he will be ready for the postseason.
"There's still a little restriction and a little pain," said McDonagh, who left Vancouver with his left arm in a sling after a high hit into the glass from the Canucks' Alex Burrows with 44 seconds left in regulation on Tuesday. "I was pretty concerned; never felt pain like that in my shoulder before . . . but I was relieved there was no structural damage. I felt better after treatment, so that's a good sign."
He said in an interview during the game that it was "a tough hit to take that late in the game. You never know the true intent." Burrows was not disciplined or suspended for the incident.
McDonagh, who Vigneault said is "day-to-day," said it doesn't matter when the Rangers clinch. "I want to play as soon as I can,'' he said, "as soon as I feel confident."
Colorado has 103 points and is 26-11-3 at home. The Rangers have won a franchise-record 25 games away from the Garden, where they will play three of the next four.