MATT: In my opinion, last night was Henrik Lundqvist's most critical performance of the season. Sure, he didn't finish with the amount of saves as he had earlier in the season in his stellar performance against the Dallas Stars, but Lundqvist was sensational with the game on the line in the third period with Chicago pushing after Carl Hagelin's goal. Aside from the couple of minutes in the second period when the Blackhawks scored both their goals — and there isn't a goaltender on the planet that would have stopped Jonathan Toews' goal — he was reliable and steady. He fought a few pucks, but that is to be expected against an offense like the one Chicago possesses. Lundqvist's best save came early in the second period when Kris Versteeg deflected a shot and Lundqvist got a piece of it with his puck. Hank even finished with an assist on Mats Zuccarello's goal in the first period. Hopefully this win is one Lundqvist can build on during the upcoming homestand.
My second star was Marc Staal, who I thought may have played the best game of his season. He registered two assists and also rang a slapshot off the post. Staal broke up a Chicago rush just inside the Rangers blueline that led to Brad Richards' goal to open up the scoring. Later, Staal's slapshot was turned aside but Carl Hagelin was there to bury the rebound. Staal did a bit of everything, finishing his night with two shots, a hit, a blocked shot and a takeaway in 22:51, which trailed just Ryan McDonagh.
My third star goes to Brad Richards, who scored his second goals in three games and looks to be playing like he did early in the season when he was the team's best forward. This season he's been shooting a lot more than he had in recent years, and it's been paying off like last night. He beat Corey Crawford five-hole to give the Rangers the early lead. Later, he assisted on Carl Hagelin's goal that held up to be the game-winner. Richards finished with 15:50 of ice time and had four shots.
JIM: I am totally with you in regards to Henrik Lundqvist being the No. 1 star on Wednesday night. Even though the Rangers held an early 2-0 lead, I thought Henrik was terrific in that opening period of play, stopping all 15 shots he faced. He was even better in the third period when the Blackhawks first pushed for the go-ahead score, and then later for the tying goal. His save on Marian Hossa right after Carl Hagelin gave New York a 3-2 lead was a game-saver. In those frantic final two minutes his battle level was off the charts. Henrik at his best. For sure he'd want that second goal by Brandon Bollig back, it wasn't a good one, but it did not beat him. He reset, refocused, and did not look back. One bad goal did not become two or more. The Rangers do not win without him and how he played Wednesday.
Good call on Marc Staal, he was and is my Rangers Second Star, as well. He was more aggressive in the offensive zone, and made a real good play to keep the puck in at the blueline before quickly firing a shot on net leading to Hagelin's winner on the rebound. Two assists, love to see that. Also a stalwart in his own end, a real solid 22:51 of ice time. Nothing I did not like about his game Wednesday night in Chicago.
Brad Richards was clutch with that game-opening goal and assist on Hagelin's goal, but I am taking Mats Zuccarello with my No. 3 Star. He was all over the ice again, creating chances at nearly every turn. He got a somewhat fortunate bounce on his goal, but his power move around the net was classic. I also liked his game in the defensive zone, and the fact that he looked to shoot at the other end of the ice, finishing with four shots on goal. This is all becoming the norm for the Norwegian Olympian.