Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) stops a shot on the goal by New York Rangers' Marian Gaborik (10), of the Czech Republic, during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Jonathan Toews scored on a penalty shot to start Chicago's four-goal first period against New York backup Martin Biron, and the Blackhawks emphatically snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers on Thursday night.
Toews kicked off the spree just over a minute in, defenseman Nick Leddy doubled the lead 1:03 later, and Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa added goals to make it 4-0 before 10 minutes had elapsed. Corey Crawford kept things mostly intact the rest of the way, stopping 22 shots to help the Blackhawks earn their first win since they topped Florida on Jan. 20.
Toews and Hossa both added assists in the first period, and defenseman Brent Seabrook set up two goals for the Blackhawks, who scored over three goals in a game only once during their losing streak (0-8-1). Chicago, which had 22 shots, was 0-6-1 during the first seven games of a nine-game trip that ends Saturday at Columbus.
The Rangers went 0 for 7 on the power play and missed a chance to jump over Detroit to the top of the NHL standings as their four-game winning streak was broken. New York had won eight of 10 (8-1-1) to open a seven-point lead in the East over defending Stanley Cup champion Boston.
New York came out much better in the second period, pressuring Crawford and drawing penalties, but the early deficit was too much to overcome. Defenseman Marc Staal wrecked Crawford's hopes of a shutout when he brought the Rangers to 4-1 at 3:04 of the second period with his first goal of the season.
Carl Hagelin scored with 4:45 left to make it 4-2.
Crawford bounced back from a loss to San Jose on Friday night, in which he gave up five goals on 27 shots, and won for the first time since Jan. 18. Ray Emery was the starter and loser in the Blackhawks' previous two games.
Even with their long skid, the Blackhawks are still in a playoff position in the West, sitting in sixth place.
They weathered the Rangers' second-period surge and overcome a near second goal for New York. The Rangers thought Marian Gaborik shoved a shot in, but the puck sat on the goal line and wasn't pushed all the way into the net by Ryan Callahan until after the whistle blew.
Biron was blitzed for four goals on Chicago's first seven shots, although the onslaught wasn't all his fault. The frustrated Blackhawks connected on a penalty shot and two breakaways — finding space between Biron's old-school brown pads consistently.
Toews struck just 1:04 in after Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi was caught covering the puck in the crease when Biron couldn't control a rebound. The Chicago captain streaked down the middle of the ice on the penalty shot and fired a shot that beat Biron and smacked off the pad at the back of the net.
Leddy doubled the lead 1:03 later when his shot from inside the center of the blue line made its way in through traffic.
Girardi found himself in the middle of another Chicago goal, but this time he was down in the offensive zone while the Blackhawks raced the other way. Girardi lost his stick in the Chicago end, and forced the Rangers to stay out of the Blackhawks zone while he retrieved it, as to avoid being offside.
New York turned over the puck, and Toews found Sharp with a long pass to send him in on a breakaway. Sharp split Biron's pads with a shot to make it 3-0 just 4 minutes in, prompting annoyed Rangers fans to break into chants of "Hen-rik! Hen-rik!" while helpless No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist sat on the bench.
When Biron stopped a shot from Seabrook from the other end of the ice — measured at 132 feet — he received a mock cheer from the annoyed crowd that has grown accustomed to good defense and winning hockey.
Hossa stretched the lead to 4-0 at 9:38 on the Blackhawks' seventh shot of the period. Patrick Kane sent the high-scoring forward in on another breakaway for his 22nd goal of the season. Rangers coach John Tortorella then used his lone timeout, but there was little he could say to his team at that point.
The most goals the Rangers had allowed in a game was five to Ottawa on Oct. 29. They had given up a season-worst three goals in a period three times this season.
In comparison, Lundqvist has yielded only seven goals in six outings in February.