Scott Darling got his first career shutout, and Brad Richards scored his 11th goal of the season as the Chicago Blackhawks picked up a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night in the Big Apple.
Darling made 25 saves for the Blackhawks in the win, and Cam Talbot made 31 saves for the Rangers in the tough-luck defeat as the Hawks won their fourth game in a row and sixth in their last seven outings.
The game got off to a bit of a slow start as both teams continued the methodical, defensive-heavy strategy that they displayed in their first meeting of the season, but there were a few good chances in the mix. Jonathan Toews had a great one stopped by a glove save from Talbot early on, and then Scott Darling came really close to giving up a goal on a puck that squirted away from his glove, but an official’s whistle saved him as the game remained scoreless.
The final stages of the period saw the Rangers get a couple of good scoring chances, with Rick Nash and Derek Stepan both firing off quality shots. Nash was denied by Darling on a breakaway attempt following a Brent Seabrook turnover, and then Stepan was stoned on a 2-on-1 breakaway a few moments later.
The Blackhawks did get a late power play in the period when Keith Yandle tripped up Teuvo Teravainen, but it was for naught as they failed to score and the game remained knotted at 0-0 after a period of play.
Where the first period started out with both teams playing cautiously, that caution went to the wind as the second period got underway. Carl Hagelin had a tremendous chance off a Dan Boyle stretch pass that Darling stopped at one end, and then Andrew Shaw was denied with a great save by Talbot at the other end as the transition game picked up steam.
The Rangers got a power play thanks to an Andrew Desjardins tripping penalty in the offensive zone, but the Hawks were able to kill it off. They did have a brief scare as Stepan drilled a shot that got stuck in the netting on the side of the goal, but it was quickly ruled no goal as the game remained scoreless.
The chances continued flying as the period wore on, with Nash getting denied on a 2-on-1 rush at one end and then Niklas Hjalmarsson wired in a low shot that rang loudly off the post at the other. Marcus Kruger had a wraparound chance of his own a few minutes later, and then Richards was stopped on a backhand shot as Talbot continued his strong play.
The third period began with the Hawks really imposing their will, and they got a couple of great chances early. Bryan Bickell lifted a shot just past the post after Kimmo Timonen’s shot was blocked down in front on the best of chances, and then Brandon Saad saw his wraparound attempt denied a few moments later.
About seven minutes into the period, the Blackhawks finally were able to capitalize on a transition chance. After Boyle fired a shot off the crossbar, the Blackhawks flew up the ice the other way, and ultimately Richards got the puck behind the net. Patiently skating back to the front, Richards waited for Talbot to go down into his butterfly stance, and the veteran lifted a wrist shot just underneath the crossbar to make it a 1-0 game.
The Blackhawks continued generating some chances as the period wore on, with Sharp getting stopped on a breakaway attempt and Kruger having a wrist shot from the slot gloved down by Talbot. That momentum hit a bit of a speed bump with about four minutes to go in the game as Hjalmarsson was sent to the penalty box, but they were able to kill off the penalty with relative ease.
Even with Talbot pulled out of the net, the Rangers were unable to get much in the way of pressure, and when Nash’s shot went just wide of the cage at the buzzer, the Hawks picked up their fourth straight victory.