The Rangers headed into Wednesday's match-up with the defending Stanley Cup champions saying that this game would be a true measuring stick for where the Rangers are as a team at this point of their 2013-14 season. Then in an impresisvley resilient effort the Rangers went out and defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, on the road at the United Center, by the score of 3-2.
The Rangers are now 6-2-1 overall in their last nine games, and they have won four of their last five on the road.
With the score tied 2-2 late in the third period and following an important successful penalty kill, the Rangers scored a clutch goal to grab a one-goal lead. Carl Hagelin outworked Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy for the rebound of Marc Staal's slap shot and chipped a shot past goaltender Corey Crawford at 14:02. The goal was the 11th this season for Hagelin---named Tuesday to Sweden's Men's Olympic Hockey team---six of which have come in the past 12 games.
Mere moments later Henrik Lundqvist--also named to Team Sweden's Olympic roster--made a sensational game-saving stop on a wide-open Marian Hossa. Lundqvist finished the night with 35 saves---including a slew in a wild final minute barrage by the Blackhawks--for the Rangers, who are now 14-10-0 on the road this season and who snapped Chicago's ten-game streak of recording at least one point (6-0-4).
The Rangers entered play with a 17-2-1 record this season when scoring the game-opening goal, and before the first period was even halfway over Wednesday they not only scored the first goal, but had a 2-0 lead over the Blackhawks. However after 40 minutes of play and heading into the third period their lead was gone and the score was all evened up, 2-2.
Crawford was shaky early on and the Rangers took advantage twice. Brad Richards opened the scoring just 5:06 into the game, ripping a shot from the right dot past Crawford short side to give the Rangers that all important first goal. Ryan Callahan made a nice pass off the right-wing boards directly on to the stick of Richards, sending the Rangers alternate captain on his way to his 11th goal of the season.
At 9:29 of the first period Mats Zuccarello skated past several 'Hawks on left wing, swooped behind the net with the puck, and then beat Crawford on a wraparound to double the Rangers lead. The goal was Zuccarello's 11th this year--he, Richards, and Hagelin are now all tied with Chris Kreider for the team lead--and it came on the power play, assisted by Michael Del Zotto--who, like Zuccarello and Richards, has a three-game point-scoring streak now--and Lundqvist, his second of the season.
Chicago began chipping away at the Ranhers momentum, controlling the play for long stretches in the Rangers zone, but Lundqvist held them at bay playing a very strong first 20 minutes. Lundqvist stopped all 15 shots he faced in the first period, including a point-blank chance for Patrick Sharp, who is second in the league with 25 goals already this season.
However in the second period Chicago finally broke through, and before the period was complete the score was tied. Jonathan Toews buried a rebound from the slot with the Blackhawks on the power play at 6:17 and Brandon Bollig then scored on Chicago's next shot at 8:05, beating Lundqvist off the rush from left wing to the short side, and the game was tied 2-2.
The Blackhawks pressed their advantage, but the Rangers stiffened, and by the end of the second period it was New York with the better of the play. Crawford made a real good save on Callahan's left wing shot off an odd-man rush, and then robbed Rick Nash with two minutes to play when he got a glove on Nash's breakaway wrister.
Crawford then made at least four terrific saves early in the third period with the Rangers on the power play, the best of which was his pad stop on Derick Brassard's redirection off a simply gorgeous right-wing pass from an onrushing Zuccarello. Nash and Callahan also came real close on that power play, and then Staal wristed a long shot off the post at 4:25, with the score remaining tied, 2-2.
Daniel Carcillo, who played on the Balckhawks 2013 Cup-winning team, made his Rangers debut Wednesday. Acquired from the Los Angeles Kings last Saturday, Carcillo was in the starting lineup Wednesday and played a regular shift alongside Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle.
The Rangers return home to host the Dallas Stars on Friday night at Madison Square Garden, where the Blueshirts will play seven of their next eight games.