NEW YORK | Evan Rodrigues scored the deciding goal in the shootout and Alexandar Georgiev made 44 saves against his former team as the Colorado Avalanche beat the New York Rangers 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Rodrigues beat Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin in the fourth round of the tiebreaker before Georgiev denied Alexis Lafreniere’s attempt to seal the victory. Mikko Rantanen also scored in the shootout for Colorado and Artemi Panarin tallied for the Rangers.
“I’m really happy for him,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said of Georgiev. ”Every game is a big game. But when you’re coming in against your former team and playing against your former teammates, I think it’s a little added incentive and motivation.”
Georgiev, who played five seasons for the Rangers as a backup, first to Henrik Lundqvist and then to Shesterkin, pumped his fist in exultation and was mobbed by teammates near the blueline after improving to 4-0-1 on the season.
“I was just enjoying the moment,″ the soft-spoken Georgiev said.
The 26-year-old Bulgarian-born goalie had 58 wins and eight shutouts for the Rangers before he was traded to the defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche in the offseason.
“It doesn’t get much better than that type of shootout win and the building,″ Georgiev added. ”A lot of great memories. I tried to think about the positives and there were a lot of those.”
Valeri Nichushkin and Logan O’Connor scored in regulation for the Avalanche.
Barclay Goodrow had a goal and an assist and Adam Fox also scored for the Rangers, who have lost three in a row — all at home. Shesterkin finished with 42 saves as Colorado came at the Rangers in waves.
“They played really fast,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said of the Avalanche. ”No surprise, the Stanley Cup champions are a quick and fast team.”
O’Connor scored a short-handed goal 59 seconds into the third to put Colorado ahead 2-1 after Shesterkin mishandled the puck to the right of his net. Andrew Cogliano corralled it and passed the puck out to O’Connor, who rifled it in from between the faceoff circles for his first of the season.
Fox tied it for the Rangers with just under 6 minutes left, finishing off a pretty passing sequence with Jimmy Vesey and Goodrow with his first goal of the season.
“It was a good hockey game, exciting for the fans — back and forth with great goaltending,” Gallant added.
Colorado, playing the first of three New York-area games before heading to Finland for two games against Columbus, came out flying against the Rangers.
The Avalanche opened the scoring on the power-play with 8:20 left in the first on Nichushkin’s team-leading seventh goal — fifth on the power-play. Nichushkin tipped a whistling shot by defenseman Cale Makar past Shesterkin for his team-leading 12th point.
The Avalanche dominated the first, outshooting the Rangers 20-11. New York reversed the script in the middle period with a 15-7 shots advantage.
The Rangers finally solved Georgiev with 1:54 left in the second on Goodrow’s second goal — off a cross-ice pass from Jacob Trouba.
Georgiev made his best save 6 minutes into the second, denying a backhand by Lafreniere in the crease with a pad stop. He also stymied Mika Zibanejad on a one-timer during a late second-period power-play and made another glove save on his former teammate at 11:20 of the third.
“I feel like I knew ‘Georgie’ was going to have a game tonight,″ Makar said. “He’s a good goalie but I feel like he was on a completely different planet tonight.”
ANOTHER FAMILIAR FACE
The game also marked the return of former Rangers forward Dryden Hunt, who was claimed on waivers by the Avalanche last week.
Colorado is now 10 for 20 on the power play this season. … Makar has seven assists in seven games. Avalanche defensemen have 21 points (four goals and 17 assists) in seven games this season.
Avalanche: At New Jersey on Friday night.
Rangers: At the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.