The Rangers knew it was not going to be easy on Wednesday night.
They were on the wrong end of a back-to-back that had them get home from Chicago at 3 a.m.
They were facing one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the NHL in the Avalanche.
And they were starting a goaltender making his NHL debut by way of Slovakia and the University of Connecticut named Adam Huska, whom coach Gerard Gallant inserted to give Alexandar Georgiev a blow.
Huska not only was a recent callup from Hartford of the AHL but had been a backup there to Farmingville native Keith Kinkaid.
Even with all that, the result was even worse than the Rangers could have anticipated, a 7-3 defense-challenged blowout at Madison Square Garden that ended their seven-game winning streak and dropped them to 17-5-3.
The Avalanche scored five goals and hit the goal post twice in the second period alone.
It only was one game, of course, and need not change the narrative arc of the Rangers’ recent strong play. But it was a heck of a lousy night for the home team, which had an eight-game home winning streak snapped.
"I don’t make excuses, but we looked like a tired team," Gallant said afterward.
The only good news was that Georgiev got a night off.
With Georgiev needed Friday night in Buffalo and Igor Shesterkin still on the injured list, Gallant was not about to pull Huska after two periods.
"I just told the kid, I said, ‘Listen, this is a team thing right now,’" Gallant said. "We’re down 6-2. You go in there and battle your ass off. That’s all we wanted.
"I’m not going to put Georgiev in the net after two periods to go in there cold when we’ve already lost a goalie."
Huska, 24, had played 56 games over four seasons in Hartford before being called up last weekend. He was 2-3-1 with a 2.20 goals-against average this season. Kinkaid was unavailable to the Rangers because he is in COVID-19 protocol.
Gallant admitted before the game it was a "big-time" test for the young goaltender, but he said that with a busy early December schedule and Shesterkin out, he felt it was the right move to avoid back-to-back starts for Georgiev.
After Huska saved 18 of 19 shots in the first period, the Avalanche finally got to him in the second, and he did not get much help from his teammates.
"He made some good saves," Jacob Trouba said. "We definitely left him out to dry a little bit."
Said Gallant, "We lost that as a team, definitely."
Two Avalanche players, Nathan MacKinnon and Logan O’Connor, scored after faking their ways around Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller.
"They’re a talented team, and if you’re going to give them second and third chances and odd-man rushes, they’re going to take advantage," Gallant said.
Colorado (14-7-2) entered the night leading the NHL in goals per game at 4.14. The Ranger had been 8-1-1 at home and had won 11 of their last 12 games.
"We’ll bury it and go on to the next one," Gallant said.
The Rangers led 2-1 after one period on goals by Trouba and Nils Lundkvist, whose power-play goal at 18:15 was the first of the 21-year-old defenseman’s NHL career.
He celebrated by pumping his fist, knocking himself off balance and causing him to fall to the ice.
But things fell apart quickly for the Rangers in the second period. The Avs got goals from MacKinnon, Nazem Kadri and Alex Newhook, then two in 22 seconds from O’Connor.
Filip Chytil made it 6-3 with 8:08 left in the third, then Mikko Rantanen completed the scoring with his second goal of the game for Colorado.
It was the most goals the Rangers have given up this season.