Thursday, January 09, 2014
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Rangers pull out win over Blackhawks

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[January 09, 2014]  CHICAGO  You've heard of the terrible twos and crazy eights, but how do you explain all three of the New York Rangers' goals Wednesday night were the 11th of the season for each of their three respective scorers?

It was definitely a quirk, but one that worked well for left winger Carl Hagelin and centers Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarello, with Hagelin's slapshot past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford at 14:03 of the third period being the deciding tally in New York's 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

"I think we've been playing some pretty good hockey for quite some time," Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said. "They came hard at us, but I thought the last six, seven minutes we did what we had to do in that second period and I really like our third period. I thought we had some good chances and we were able to get one there at the end."

It was the first meeting between the two teams since the 2012-13 season  they did not meet in last year's lockout-shortened season  and was also the Rangers' first win in Chicago since a similar 3-2 triumph on Jan. 16, 2009.

Even with the loss, Chicago is still 11-2-3 vs. Eastern Conference foes this season.

The victory was the fourth in the last six games for the Rangers (22-20-3).


"It's a big thing for us, consistency," Rangers right winger Ryan Callahan said. "It's something we've been searching for this year. Getting a big win like this against the league champs is a big thing for us."

Chicago (29-8-9) suffered its fifth loss in the last nine games and its first loss in regulation time in the last 11 games.

However, there's a caveat to that: Chicago's other four losses in that 11-game stretch came in either overtime or in the shootout.

"We found a way to get ourselves back into the game, so we shouldn't be looking for excuses," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We shouldn't be looking for whether we're tired. We have enough days off and time away. You have to find meaning and purpose for every game.

"I know human nature says some nights that it's tough to get excited about every game, but you have to find a way. You may not have your A game or your A pace behind you, then you play a smart game with a purpose. I think we need more guys contributing, if that's how they're feeling."

In addition, five of Chicago's last six games have been decided by one goal  with only one of those five being a win (1-0 vs. the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 30).

"I don't really look at it like the offense is dried up," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "I think it's always there. The biggest thing is just coming out to play a little better overall. We're getting outworked in a few of these games and I think, especially there in the first, we were sloppy. We got better as the game went along. Unfortunately, they were able to get one late and win it."


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Although Quenneville intends on staying with Crawford in goal, there is some concern that he still may not be 100 percent fully recovered from a lower-body injury that had sidelined him for nearly a month before returning to the starting lineup last Thursday at the New York Islanders.

Since his return, Crawford has lost all three of his starts.

Crawford stopped 29 of New York's 32 shots, while Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopped 35 of Chicago's 37 shots.

While the Blackhawks outshot the Rangers 15-9 in the first period, New York held the upper hand, taking a 2-0 lead in the first 20 minutes of play.

Richards scored the Rangers' first goal at 5:09, while Zuccarello added a power-play tally at 9:29.

The Blackhawks came out noticeably more aggressive in the second period, which led to two quick scores within less than two minutes of each other.

First, team captain and forward Jonathan Toews sank his 16th goal of the season at 6:17, on the power play. Assists went to Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith.

Combined this season, Toews, Sharp and Keith have accounted for 44 goals and an incredible 91 assists.

Than at 8:05, left winger Brandon Bollig scored his fourth goal of the season to tie game at 2-all.


NOTES: Attendance was 21,493. The Blackhawks also surpassed 516,000 in total attendance for the season. ... With Blackhawks G Nikolai Khabibulin needing at least four months to recover from rotator cuff surgery Tuesday, it is likely G Antti Raanta will remain as G Corey Crawford's main backup for the rest of the season. There is already talk among Chicago media that Khabibulin, 40, may have played his last game as a Blackhawk and could be released at season's end. ... The Blackhawks have totaled just 90 lost man-games this season, the majority coming from Khabibulin and Crawford. The Rangers have lost just 82 man-games thus far. ... Each team has only one former player from the other. The Blackhawks have former Rangers D Michal Rozsival, while the Rangers have former Blackhawks LW Daniel Carcillo. ... Chicago's next game is Saturday at Montreal, while the Rangers open a four-game homestand vs. Dallas on Friday. ... The Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues all will have an NHL-high 10 players apiece representing their native countries in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. ... The Rangers have a better road record (14-10-0) than home record (8-10-3).

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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