NEW YORK, N.Y. – Playing the defending Stanley Cup champions to end a stretch of four games in six nights is hardly the blueprint for success.
Don’t tell that to the New York Rangers, who stood up to the Chicago Blackhawks and skated off with a tense 3-2 victory on Monday night.
Henrik Lundqvist, fresh off his 25th NHL shutout two nights earlier, had enough of a challenge in turning aside 33 shots, but his teammates blocked 33 other drives that never got through to him.
“You get in the lane and sacrifice your body for the team,” said defenceman Dan Girardi, who tied Ryan Callahan for the team lead with six blocks. “There is no skill about it. You just get in the lane and go down.”
Callahan shook off the pain of one of those blocks and earned his second assist of the night on Brandon Dubinsky’s second goal of the game in the opening minute of the third period. That gave New York a 2-1 lead that didn’t last long.
Patrick Kane tied it at 2 at 6:08, but Erik Christensen put New York back on top just 28 seconds later.
“It was huge,” Christensen said. “We gave ourselves a second chance.”
Dubinsky, who leads New York with seven goals, got the Rangers even 1-1 in the final minute of the first period. Both goals were set up by linemates Callahan and Artem Anisimov. The Rangers won their second straight and earned just their second home victory (2-3-1).
“Those guys are making great plays and it is fun to play with them,” said Dubinsky, who has four goals and three assists in the past six games. “We have enough skill on that line that if we give enough effort and energy we are going to get enough opportunities.”
Chicago’s Tomas Kopecky also scored and Marty Turco stopped 20 shots for the Blackhawks, who had defenceman Brian Campbell in the lineup for the first time this season after he recovered from a knee injury, but dropped their fourth in six games.
Chicago had a 6-on-4 skating advantage for the final 25.6 seconds after Turco was pulled and Girardi dragged down Kopecky as he drove to the net.
Lundqvist and the Rangers held on.
“I don’t think it’s hard to keep concentration there,” Lundqvist said. “After the second goal, that is the challenge—the challenge for me to refocus. We responded right away.”
Dubinsky converted Callahan’s pass 55 seconds into the third, but Kane slipped a shot between Lundqvist’s pads to get Chicago even.
Before that goal could be announced, Christensen got to a loose puck that caromed off the stick of Chicago’s Patrick Sharp and flipped in a shot from the left hash marks at 6:36.
The Blackhawks had a chance to get even again when the Rangers were caught with too many men on the ice at 7:27, but the Blackhawks—who own the NHL’s third-most efficient power-play unit—couldn’t take advantage.
“We did what we had to do to win, we just didn’t bury our chances,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “Small defensive mistakes really cost us. We’re never going to be satisfied with a loss, but there are some good things we did.”
After the first 17 minutes were played in tight-checking fashion, Chicago went up 1-0 on Kopecky’s second goal—first in eight games. Kopecky got the blade of his stick on Duncan Keith’s drive from the right circle and deflected the puck past Lundqvist with 2:47 left in the first.
But the Blackhawks couldn’t carry that lead even as far as the intermission.
“We played well as a team,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “We regrouped after the first period where Chicago had the puck quite a bit. We were a little too tentative … and we showed them too much respect.”
The Rangers prevented a clearing attempt in the period’s final minute and worked the puck behind the Blackhawks’ net.
Callahan, who scored in each of the previous four games, set up this one with a pass into the slot. Dubinsky quickly fired a shot that hit Anisimov’s stick and kicked around the crease. Keith inadvertently swept the puck back to Dubinsky, who nudged in a shot through traffic with 20.5 seconds remaining.
“They get that goal late in the first periodand that kills all of our momentum going into the break,” said Keith, who had eight shots blocked. “Then we tie it up in the third, and then they score the next shift. It’s two goals that we can’t give up.”
Both teams had earlier chances that were turned aside. Callahan nearly scored off a rebound of Dubinsky’s shot during a power play about three minutes in. Right after that advantage ended, Sharp—who has 10 goals in 13 games—was stopped by Lundqvist on a breakaway.
Notes: D Michael Sauer and C Todd White returned to the Rangers lineup in place of D Matt Gilroy and enforcer Derek Boogaard, who were healthy scratches. Sauer missed the previous four games, and six of eight. White played two of the previous four. … The Blackhawks haven’t won at Madison Square Garden since Dec. 11, 2002.