CHICAGO – Once Dustin Byfuglien started up ice, the six-foot-four, 257-pound Chicago Blackhawks’ winger kept accelerating. He raced past defenceman Matt Gilroy, got an angle to the net and then beat goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Byfuglien’s goal 3:43 into overtime Wednesday night gave the Chicago Blackhawks another dramatic victory, 2-1 over the New York Rangers.
“I got the puck, got on my horse and took off,” Byfuglien said. “Got a good clear lane to the net, drove and got it five-hole. … They were tired at the end of their shift. Put the jets on and see what happens. It turned out pretty good.”
The Blackhawks have won three of their last four games – with all three victories coming after regulation.
After Duncan Keith blocked a shot attempt by the Rangers’ Vinny Prospal, the puck went ahead to Byfuglien and he looked line a runaway linebacker.
“The ice always opens up 4-on-4. You take your chances. Things happen,” Byfuglien said.
“It was the highlight of the year,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “Great speed, great presence of mind. He cut in. Nice finish as well.”
The Blackhawks tied the game with 5:55 left in regulation on a power play – their fifth of the game – when Jonathan Toews chipped in a goal after a scrum in front of the net as Chicago finally got one past Lundqvist, who finished with a season-high 39 saves.
“We were frustrated because he was making some great saves. But we stuck with it,” Quenneville said.
“It hurts so much, especially when you give up the late goals and you’re not able to get the two points. It’s painful,” Lundqvist said. “Not being able to get the two points, it hurts.”
Christopher Higgins scored for Rangers in the first period and it appeared Lundqvist would shut out the Blackhawks.
“He was the one who played. He was about the only one who played,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
“My concern tonight is just a level of competing, which was horrid as far as I’m concerned. It was unacceptable. … If guys thought they were trying tonight, they’re in for a rude awakening.”
The Blackhawks improved to 19-7-3. The Rangers lost for the fifth time in six games, but no fault of Lundqvist’s.
Marian Gaborik, the leading goal scorer in the NHL entering the game, made a nice pass from the right circle to Higgins in the left circle and he fired a hard wrist shot past Cristobal Huet, staking the Rangers to a 1-0 lead in the first.
Lundqvist made a nice save in the second period on Toews after he broke free from the right circle. Minutes later, he stopped a hard shot by Andrew Ladd from right in front. He then turned away four shot attempts on a Chicago power play and snuffed a close-range shot from Marian Hossa with 36 seconds to go in the second.
A high-sticking penalty on New York’s Michal Rozsival with about 10 minutes left in regulation gave the Blackhawks their fourth power play, but again they couldn’t convert as a long attempt by Brian Campbell was deflected, hit the crossbar and came down.
The Blackhawks peppered Lundqvist with 30 shots in the first two periods, while Huet faced just 15.
Huet finished with 17 saves.
NOTES: D Wade Redden returned for the Rangers after missing five games because of a shoulder injury. LW Donald Brashear, out two games with a hand and wrist injury, was also back for New York. … The assist gave Gaborik 39 points. He entered the game two behind Joe Thornton for the league lead.