Captain Ryan Callahan made a statement Tuesday night. Credit: Getty Images
If the past week has been a public referendum on Ryan Callahan's future with the Rangers, then Tuesday night was the captain's most emphatic statement why general manager Glen Sather should see to it the heart and soul of the Blueshirts finishes his career with the only organization he has ever known.
Callahan scored the first two goals in the Rangers' dominant 5-1 win over the Avalanche Tuesday night. Anton Stralman, Derick Brassard and Brad Richards also scored for the Rangers, who improved to 31-23-3 with their fourth win in a row, a season high.
Colorado fell to 36-15-5.
Facing one of the Western Conference's burgeoning powers, the Rangers were authoritative from the opening faceoff as their pressuring of the Avalanche led to an 43-28 advantage in shots on goal, and 69-55 in attempts.
"We took control of the game in the first period," Richards said. "[We] wanted to jump on them and I think we did that. We never really let them back in the game."
Callahan scored both of his goals in a span of 3:19 in the first period. His first was a backhander past Semyon Varlamov at 14:16, and on his next shift Callahan beat the Avalanche goaltender with a quick snap shot from the slot.
By the end of the period, the Garden denizens chanted for Callahan, whose reported contract demands have led to Sather reportedly talking to other clubs about the 29-year-old right wing.
"It's not easy going through these things," Richards said of Callahan's on-going negotiations with the Rangers. "It's part of the world we live in now, which sometimes is fortunate and a lot of times is all good stuff — meaning financially we're lucky to do what we do and do that stuff. It is part of the business sometimes and it's unfortunate when you have to go through it. He's been professional with it, and came out tonight and really helped our line."
That the Rangers' 2-0 lead at the first intermission wasn't greater was a testament to Varlamov, who finished with 38 saves.
"Varlamov was phenomenal for us in the first period," Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said.
When Gabriel Landeskog cut the lead in half 6:37 into the second it appeared the Avs had withstood the Rangers' surge and were beginning to generate some momentum.
It didn't last.
Stralman put the Rangers ahead 3-1 with a wrist shot from inside the blue line 1:07 after Landeskog's goal. Stralman's goal, his first of the season, was set up by Mats Zuccarello's stickhandling against three Avalanche players at the blue line in an attempt to create space along the wall.
Before the end of the second, the Rangers penalty-kill unit essentially snuffed out the Avalanche's best shot of getting back into the game by killing a 1:50-long 5-on-3 power play. Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal were on the ice for the entirety of the power play, in which Henrik Lundqvist (27 saves) made two spectacular stops.
"[McDonagh and Staal] did a great job," head coach Alain Vigneault said. "[Colorado] had some chances. They had three really good looks and Hank was just phenomenal on two of those."
Brassard and Richards scored in the third period to push the lead to 5-1.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.