Scott Darling is more comfortable in his second full NHL season and he's been coming up big for the Chicago Blackhawks with starting goalie Corey Crawford out.
Darling stopped 33 shots, Artem Anisimov scored the tiebreaking goal late in the second period and the Central Division-leading Blackhawks beat the New York Rangers 2-1 on Tuesday night.
Darling has started the last six games while Crawford has been recovering from an appendectomy. Darling has been stellar over the last four games, allowed just three goals on 116 shots while helping the Blackhawks go 3-0-1.
"You just get into a rhythm, you get comfortable, not as nervous," said Darling, who upped his record to 7-2-2 this season. "You can just relax and have fun out there. ... Last year was my first full year. I was still nervous about my role, my position within the organization. Coming back now, I'm not one of the new guys, I've been here for 2 1/2 years."
The Rangers had some chances in the final minutes, but Darling stopped Mats Zuccarello's slap shot with about 3 minutes to go, and then a tip-in attempt by Jimmy Vesey less than a minute later.
"The guys did a good job of keeping a lot of it from the outside," Darling said. "They had their chances and so did we. ... It was a fun game, a great hockey game and a big two points."
Trevor van Riemsdyk also scored, Artemi Panarin had two assists and Anisimov had one as Chicago got even with New York following a 1-0 overtime loss at home to the Rangers last Friday.
Jesper Fast scored for the Rangers and Antti Raanta, starting for the fourth straight game, made 24 saves. Raanta had won three consecutive starts, including shutouts in the last two. New York had won four of its last five.
"I think it was pretty much the same deal as it was Friday night in Chicago," Raanta said. "Two teams, both have good offenses and both love to play with pace. They got a couple odd-man rushes there; they got two goals from those and we didn't capitalize on our chances. A 2-1 loss, it's not a great way to lose the game when it's so close."
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was activated from injured reserve earlier in the day after missing nine games with an upper-body injury.
Anisimov put Chicago ahead for good with 1:09 left in the middle period, taking a centering pass from Brian Campbell in front and firing it past Raanta for his 13th goal.
"I just play my game, go hard to the net," said Anisimov, who was drafted by the Rangers in the second round in 2006 and spent parts of four seasons in New York from 2008-12. "This is my first team in the NHL, it's a special feeling when you score here."
After a scoreless first period, Chicago got on the scoreboard at 5:18 of the second as van Riemsdyk took a pass from Panarin and wristed it past Raanta for his first of the season. It ended Raanta's shutout streak of 176:22.
The Rangers tied it less than 3 minutes later when Fast, standing at the left side of the net, batted the puck out of the air for his third at 8:15.
Vesey had a chance for the Rangers on a rush minutes before Chicago's goal, but Darling made a nice pad save on his attempt.
"He made some key saves as the game went on," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
NOTES: Toews had four goals and eight assists in 21 games before he was injured in Chicago's 2-1 loss at San Jose on Nov. 23. The Blackhawks were 5-2-2 in his absence. The 28-year-old center has no points in his last six games, and just two assists in his last nine. ... Campbell's assist on Anisimov's goal was his 16th assist and 20th point in 40 games against the Rangers. ... New York starting goalie Henrik Lundqvist was the backup in a fourth consecutive game for the first time in his career. ... The Rangers were without D Ryan McDonagh due to an illness. He was replaced in the lineup by Adam Clendening. ... Rick Nash missed his fourth straight game due to a groin injury and Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was optimistic about getting Nash back soon.
Blackhawks: At the New York Islanders on Thursday night in the middle game of a three-game trip.
Rangers: At the Dallas Stars on Thursday night in the opener of a two-game trip.