On the second night back to NHL action after the conclusion of the 2014 Winter Olympics, the Chicago Blackhawks were looking to find their stride as a team again after being splintered in different directions for a few weeks. They also had a great window of opportunity to regain the lead in the Central Division after the St. Louis Blues fell in regulation yesterday to the Vancouver Canucks.
The New York Rangers had other plans, however. Goalie Cam Talbot continuously slammed that window shut on all but one of the Blackhawks scoring chances.
It’s not that the Blackhawks played all that bad, but they did look pretty sluggish. They didn’t seem to skate as fast as usual, and they made a number of sloppy passes or otherwise gave up the puck far too frequently.
In fact the first goal of the game occurred seconds after Rangers forwards J.T. Miller and Benoît Pouliot stripped Toews of the puck in the Blackhawks’ zone, setting up Derick Brassard to fire a couple of shots, getting one past Crawford on the second try.
Not even two minutes after the Brassard goal, the Rangers drew a penalty and gave the Blackhawks the first of three power play chances in the game. Despite being ranked third in the league on their power play heading into the game, the boys went 0-for-3 in New York.
The second period presented a number of good scoring opportunities, but the team just couldn’t convert. About the only highlights to an otherwise ho-hum period were when the Blackhawks were able to kill the penalty drawn by Keith, and Hossa just missed tallying a shorthanded goal to tie the game.
The Blackhawks turned the intensity up a few notches in the third period, but the Rangers were able to hang, and Talbot continued to be a brick wall against the many shots thrown at him by the Blackhawks. Then with 4:07 remaining in regulation, Rangers winger Rick Nash scored the game-winning goal.
As fans began to wonder whether this would be the second straight game where the Blackhawks would not only walk away with zero points but also get blanked in the process, newly-acquired center Peter Regin scored the team’s lone goal by going five-hole with eleven seconds to go. As the clock wound down, Talbot delivered a one-two punch frustrating some good scoring chances by Hossa and Kane that would have forced the teams into overtime.
Even though the Blackhawks could have used an extra boost going into Saturday’s Stadium Series game against the Pittsburg Penguins by getting a win tonight in New York, the team should take heart and remember how they played in their first game back after the 2010 Olympics, coincidentally also played in New York State (against the Islanders). And we all remember how that season turned out. Let’s hope that history repeats itself in 2014.