Four-goal first spurs Blackhawks to win
The Chicago Blackhawks waited four weeks and 10 games for a night like this.
After enduring their worst losing streak in five years, the Blackhawks busted out in a big way and broke their nine-game skid with a 4-2 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers on Thursday night.
The win wasn’t that surprising; it was the stunning swiftness that it unfolded that caught everyone off guard. Chicago scored all its goals in the first 9:38 against backup goalie Martin Biron.
Jonathan Toews scored on a penalty shot to start the outburst, and the Blackhawks emphatically got back to the winning ways they hadn’t experienced since Jan. 20 against Florida.
”You’re up 4-0 in the first few minutes, it can’t get any better than that,” said Patrick Kane, who had an assist. ”Everyone got a little confidence out of it, and I think everyone got pretty excited.
”Everyone was pumped up for this game to kind of prove ourselves, not that we can win a game but we can also beat one of the best teams in the league, too. It shows that this team has potential.”
Defenseman Nick Leddy doubled the lead 1:03 after Toews scored, and Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa added goals to make it 4-0. Corey Crawford kept things mostly intact the rest of the way, stopping 22 shots.
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 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 next game is even bigger than this one,” Toews said. ”We’ve got to keep going. We’re in a tough situation after this cold streak we’ve been on. We need to keep digging our way out of the hole, and we can’t be comfortable with this win for one second.”
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 of the season.
Carl Hagelin made it 4-2 with 4:45 left.
”We had a great second half of the second,” Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. ”In the third we continued to pressure, but four goals is a tough lead to come back from. Our second and third were good, but the first killed us.”
Crawford bounced back from a loss to San Jose on Friday, in which he gave up five goals on 27 shots, and won for the first time since Jan. 18. Ray Emery was the starter 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.
The Rangers thought Marian Gaborik shoved a shot in during the second period, but the puck sat on the goal line and wasn’t pushed all the way into the net by 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.
”It’s not on him at all,” Callahan said.
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. Leddy made it 2-0 when his shot from inside the blue line made its way in through traffic.
After a Rangers turnover, 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.
”There were a couple of chances for me to make saves to get momentum on our side or to stop their momentum. I wasn’t able to do it,” Biron said. ”That was the game right there.”
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.
Tortorella said he never considered removing Biron.
”He didn’t need to be pulled. He needed to work through it, and he did,” Tortorella said. ”Don’t blame Marty at the beginning. There were a couple of breakaways and we had a few other things go on there.
”I really respect how he hung in there.”
The most goals the Rangers have allowed in a game this season is 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.
NOTES: Crawford was 0-4-1 in his previous five outings. … Callahan had a four-game goal streak broken. … Toews leads the Blackhawks with 14 goals and 16 assists on the road.