NEW YORK, N.Y. – Cam Talbot came within 12 seconds of shutting out the defending Stanley Cup champions. Before he could blink, he was nearly headed for overtime.
The Rangers’ backup goalie gathered himself quickly after the Chicago Blackhawks cut their deficit in half and turned aside one final chance to seal New York’s 2-1, post-Olympic victory on Thursday night.
Derick Brassard scored in the first period, and Rick Nash added an insurance goal in the third that became crucial when Chicago’s Peter Regin ended the shutout bid with 11.6 seconds remaining.
“It felt like the longest 11 seconds in the world,” Talbot said. “I didn’t think they were going to get down the ice that quick.”
“It is just kind of a hope play there with 11 seconds left,” Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith said. “We got a good prime scoring chance.”
Talbot denied Patrick Kane in tight to seal the win in relief of resting No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Talbot got the starting nod after Lundqvist received extended work in Sweden’s run to the Olympics gold medal game. Talbot made the most of his opportunity, earning his 11th career win in 18 NHL games—all this season.
The starting lineups featured seven Olympians and four members of Canada’s gold-medal winning team. The Rangers and Blackhawks had been off since Feb. 7.
“To come out and beat the defending champs coming off a break like that is a good measuring stick for us,” Talbot said. “We know when we play our best hockey we can beat anyone.”
The Blackhawks came in with an NHL-best 202 goals and 3.37 goals-per-game average this season. They were nearly blanked for a second straight game after not being shut out in their first 59 games.
Chicago lost 2-0 at Phoenix in its last game before the Olympic break.
“We didn’t give up hardly anything in the two games and we don’t have much to show for it offensively, which is kind of disappointing,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
New York has won six of seven. Lundqvist is expected to play Saturday in Philadelphia when the Rangers start a back-to-back set. Talbot improved to 11-5 this season, giving the Rangers comfort in knowing they have a reliable backup.
“The difference was our goaltending,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “Cam came up extremely big at key moments, especially at the end.”
Corey Crawford made 22 saves for Chicago.
The Rangers got off to a quick start and grabbed the lead 10:14 in on Brassard’s 12th goal and fourth in five games. Benoit Pouliot intercepted a clearing attempt in the middle of the Chicago zone and passed the puck left to Brassard for a shot from the slot. The puck bounced back to Brassard, who fired it in.
New York took the only two penalties in the opening frame, but killed them in front of Talbot, who made his fourth start in 11 games. He denied Kane in close during Chicago’s second power play with 2:06 left in the first period.
Chicago failed on its third advantage of the night late in the second after Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, the subject of trade rumours, was sent off for hooking.
“I didn’t think we played that bad,” Regin said. “We were down 1-0 against a good team. If we would’ve gotten the tying goal early on, it would’ve been a totally different game.”
Talbot kept the Blackhawks at bay during the scoreless second period—turning aside all eight shots in the frame and 19 through 40 minutes. His best stop came with 5:30 left in the second when he moved quickly to his right to deny a hard drive by Brandon Saad that appeared headed for the inside of the left post.
Chicago nearly got even 5:29 into the third, but multiple whacks at a loose puck amid six players in the crease weren’t enough to push it across the line. A video review confirmed the puck never entered the net.
In the second, Crawford briefly let a long shot trickle behind him before he quickly reached back to cover it. He then blocked a deflected shot by Nash early in the third to keep the Blackhawks’ deficit at one goal, but Nash snapped his team-leading 19th goal past him late to seal New York’s win.
NOTES: Rangers D Marc Staal shook off back spasms and played. … Miller, recalled from the AHL this week, earned an assist on Brassard’s goal. He took the place of Mats Zuccarello, who broke a hand during the Olympics. … Chicago C Marcus Kruger was struck by a puck in the second period and returned.