CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 08: Mats Zuccarello #36 of the New York Rangers skates past Niklas Hjalmarsson #4 of the Chicago Blackhawks on his way to scoring a first period goal at the United Center on January 8, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Chicago Blackhawks got two second period goals from Jonathan Toews and Brandon Bollig, but it was a Carl Hagelin goal with about six minutes left in the third period that was the difference as the New York Rangers squeaked out a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night.
Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves in a winning effort for the Rangers, while Corey Crawford made 29 saves for the Hawks.
Unlike most of their games this season, the Blackhawks came out of the gate getting outworked by the Rangers, and as a result they ended up trailing just five minutes into the game. After Ryan Callahan grabbed the puck in the neutral zone and fed it up to Brad Richards, Richards brought the puck across the blue line and fired a shot that grazed off of Brent Seabrook’s skate, and it went between Crawford’s legs to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
The undisciplined approach continued for the Blackhawks when Bollig committed a silly penalty midway through the first, and the Rangers struck again. This time, it was Mats Zuccarello doing the honors, as he lost the puck a bit on a wraparound attempt, but it bounced off of Crawford’s blocker and into the net to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the contest.
The Blackhawks did get a power play in the later stages of the period, but despite some good netfront traffic they couldn’t get any sustained possessions in the Rangers’ end of the ice. The Hawks ended up outshooting the Rangers 15-9 in the period, but thanks to the great play of the New York defense, the score remained 2-0 in favor of the visitors.
Coming out of the first intermission, the Blackhawks started to get much better pressure on Lundqvist. Marcus Kruger made a dynamite play when he got the puck in the middle of the offensive zone, and his one-touch pass to Kris Versteeg nearly resulted in a goal. That kind of puck movement forced the Rangers back on their heels, and ultimately the Hawks were able to capitalize.
With both Andrew Shaw and Toews camped out in front of the net, Patrick Sharp smartly put a shot on net, which hit Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi in front. The puck bounced in front of the net, and Toews picked it up and quickly roofed a shot over Lundqvist to get the Blackhawks back into the game and trailing by one goal at 2-1.
Just 1:48 later, the Blackhawks struck again. This time, it was a Kruger pass that got Bollig skating up the ice, and the Hawks’ forward smartly held onto the puck and ended up firing a quick wrist shot past Lundqvist’s blocker, and just like that the game was tied up at 2-2.
Both goaltenders exchanged some great saves at the end of the period, with Lundqvist stoning Brandon Saad and then Crawford returning the favor on a breakaway by Rick Nash to keep things tied up at 2-2 as the second period came to an end.
Perhaps sensing that the Blackhawks had all of the momentum in the second, the Rangers came out with a lot more urgency in the third period, and they racked up the first seven shots of the period as a result. Fortunately for Chicago, Crawford was more than up to the task, as the Rangers tested his lateral movement with a ton of quick cross-ice passes. He stoned several great opportunities, including a back-handed chance from Callahan, and the game remained tied.
About halfway through the period, the Blackhawks got another power play chance, but they once again tried to pass the puck too many times, and many of their chances were for naught. One great chance did come as Nick Leddy fired a great pass to Saad in front of the net, but Marc Staal made a great defensive play to tie Saad’s stick up, and the power play didn’t yield a goal for Chicago.
Building on that momentum, the Rangers scored a late goal with about six minutes left to take the lead. After Crawford failed to clear the puck from the zone, the Rangers set up shop, and after a fluttering shot caused Crawford to have to sprawl out to stop a shot by Staal, Hagelin got inside position on Leddy and flipped home the rebound to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
The final minutes of the game saw the Blackhawks make a furious comeback attempt, but despite their best efforts, Lundqvist was on top of every shot attempt, and the Rangers managed to clear the puck with about six seconds left to secure the 3-2 victory.
The Blackhawks will try to get back on the winning track when they take on the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.