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Ryan Callahan's two goals, assist lead Rangers past Avalanche

Ryan Callahan skates to the bench after scoring

Ryan Callahan skates to the bench after scoring his second goal against the Colorado Avalanche in the first period of a game at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 4, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

It"s all about timing, and the timing couldn't have been much better for Ryan Callahan.

The Rangers captain, a pending free agent who is seeking a lucrative, seven-year extension that general manager Glen Sather is unwilling to provide, posted his first three-point night of the season with two goals and an assist as the Blueshirts rocked the Colorado Avalanche, 5-1, at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.

Aware of the negotiations with the home-grown Callahan and the rumors that he may be gone by the March 5 trade deadline, the crowd loudly acknowledged his effort, and so did his teammates, awarding him the post-game Broadway Hat.

"You can hear [the cheers]," said Callahan, who played one of his best all-around games of the season, with a team-leading six shots and seven hits in 15:57. "The fans are great; it's part of the mystique of the Garden. It's something that I love."

In winning their fourth straight game for the first time this season, the Rangers (31-23-3) blitzed goalie Semyon Varlamov with 43 shots, starting from the first few shifts, forcing him to make five saves and just missing an early goal when Daniel Carcillo's slapper from the left side hit the post at 3:20.

The pressure continued, and by the halfway point of the first, the shots were 14-2. They finally scored at 14:16. Carl Hagelin picked up a loose puck on the left side of the neutral zone and broke in on a two-on-one with Callahan, who took the pass and beat Varlamov with a backhander. It was his first goal since Jan. 19.

A little more three minutes later, the Rangers battled around the net and Brad Richards sent the puck in the slot to Callahan, who fired it past Varlamov's stick for No. 2 on the night and 11th of the season.

"That was as complete a period as I've seen in awhile," Callahan said of the 20-4 shot differential. "They're one of the top teams in the Western Conference, so it's an important win."

Said Avalanche coach Patrick Roy; "They came out flying . . . it could have been four or five to nothing."

It was quite a comedown for the Avs (36-15-5), who were playing their third game in four nights, but had won four straight, nine of 11, and were 15-5-1 against the East and 8-1-1 against the Metro Division.

Early in the second, Colorado (36-15-5) grabbed some momentum. With Dan Girardi in the box, Henrik Lundqvist (27 saves), who has allowed two goals or fewer in nine of his last 10, gloved a rising wrister from Nathan MacKinnon, but was beaten by Gabriel Landeskog at 6:37, near the end of a power play, to cut the lead to 2-1.

The response came quickly. Anton Stralman's shot from the right point eluded Varlamov at 7:30 for the defenseman's first goal of the season, restoring the two-goal lead.

The Blueshirts couldn't connect on their third power play -- and slid to 0-for the last 14 -- but the other side of the special teams was spectacular, providing a huge turning point. The Rangers killed a 5-on-3 penalty for 1:50, when Girardi followed Chris Kreider into the box at 16:47 of the second period.

Marc Staal -- who slept about 90 minutes because he was with his wife, who had given birth to their first child early Tuesday morning, and Ryan McDonagh were on the ice for the entire time.

"Those two guys did a great job," coach Alain Vigneault said. "They had three really good looks and Hank was just phenomenal."

Said Lundqvist: "Their timing and the way they were reading the play was so strong. They did an amazing job. It was such an important part of this win."

In the third, Derick Brassard, who assisted on Stralman's goal, upped the lead to 4-1 at 1:58 on a sharp-angle shot from the left post that glanced off Ryan O'Reilly's skate and through Varlamov's pads. Mats Zuccarello, who made the pass from behind the net, was awarded his second assist, and is tied for the team lead with 41 points with Richards, who scored with 1:19 to play. Callahan had the primary assist.

"Ryan's been playing real hard since the first game he played," Vigneault said. "He prepares himself real well and competes every shift. Tonight was one of those nights where he did exactly the same thing, except he was able to finish a couple of great setups by his linemates."

Notes & quotes: After struggling at home, the Rangers have at least a point in 11 of their last 15 games at MSG . . . Shots were 35-18 after two periods . . . In his last four games, Lundqvist is 4-0, with a 1.50 GAA and .950 save percentage . . . Hagelin also had two assists and was a plus-3 . . . Colorado's top line of Jamie McGinn, Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly was a minus-5 . . . In addition to the 43 shots, the Rangers had 16 attempts blocked and 12 missed the net.


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