The Rangers' Benoit Pouliot (67), center, controls the puck against Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews (19) and Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) during the third period in Chicago Wednesday.
The Chicago Blackhawks stormed back from a 2-0 deficit with two second period goals on Wednesday, but Carl Hagelin scored with six minutes left to snatch victory away as the New York Rangers won 3-2 in a battle of Original Six teams.
We’ll have more thoughts on this game throughout the day, but for right now, we’ll focus on last night’s Three Stars.
Third Star: Brandon Bollig
We’re suckers for a good redemption story here, and Bollig definitely fit that bill with his play on Wednesday night.
The game didn’t start out well for Bollig, as his ill-advised shove to the face of former Blackhawk Daniel Carcillo ended up costing the Hawks a power play goal as Mats Zuccarello beat Corey Crawford on a wraparound attempt gone weird to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
Throughout the rest of the game though, Bollig showed off his skills in other areas. He maintained his physical edge that the Hawks need him to have, but he also showed some smart offensive skill too. On a 3-on-2 rush in the second period, Bollig got the puck in the neutral zone from Marcus Kruger, and he flew up the ice. Doing what Joel Quenneville has hammered into the brains of all of his players, Bollig put the puck on net, and Henrik Lundqvist misplayed it, coming too far out of the goal and missing the shot on his blocker side to allow the Blackhawks to tie the game at 2-2.
In several instances on Wednesday, the Hawks passed up chances like that. Nick Leddy had an open lane through the face-off dot to get to the net in the first period, but opted for a drop pass. Brandon Saad did the same thing in the third period, and the Rangers scored on the ensuing possession. Seeing Bollig actually drive toward the net and fire off a quick shot to actually force Lundqvist to make a save was an interesting sight to see from a guy who had made such a bad decision earlier in the game, and it’s the reason he’s the Third Star of the game.
Second Star: Jonathan Toews
The Blackhawks’ captain has been voicing concerns over the effort level of his teammates in recent games, and after the first period saw the Hawks go down by a 2-0 score, clearly Toews felt compelled to do something about it.
That's because he and his first line teammates came out with a new sense of purpose in the second period. They battled hard in the corners for every puck, came out of the defensive zone with speed, and tried all sorts of different zone entries to try to break the Rangers’ suffocating defensive presence.
Ultimately, it was the simple act of putting a shot on net, coupled with getting traffic to the front of the cage that paid dividends for Toews and his crew. On a Patrick Sharp shot from the point, both Toews and Andrew Shaw parked in front of Lundqvist. Toews attempted to deflect the shot, but he missed it, and it ultimately hit Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, who was trying to clear the sudden pile-up of traffic near the goal.
Girardi paid a heavy price for that attempt, taking the shot off his chest, and with the blue liner staggered, the puck bounced free into the slot. Seeing it, Toews quickly grabbed the puck and flicked a gorgeous wrist shot over Lundqvist and into the net to get the Blackhawks on the board in the game.
It was a quick-hands play from a guy known for his ability to do the right thing with the puck, but it was also the simple act of getting to the net and creating the opportunity for the rebound that really stood out about the play on Toews’ part.
First Star: Marcus Kruger
If there was one player who busted his rear end for all 60 minutes of the game on Wednesday night, it was Kruger, who ended up with an assist and four shots on goal in 14:21 of ice time in the contest.
Aside from the numbers though, Kruger’s game as a whole was on-point the entire night. His crisp passing, speedy skating, and aggressive defense all were on full display in the game, and his pass to set up the Bollig rush was just the icing on the cake for what was a great night by a guy getting a chance at extended ice time.