The New York Rangers came away with two huge points tonight as they defeated the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 2-1. Cam Talbot and the Rangers were able to withstand a late push by the Hawks, and earned a much needed win. Rick Nash wound up coming away with the game winning goal, and he continued to be the dominant force he was prior to the Olympic layoff earlier in the month.
The first few minutes of this game appeared to be a "feeling out" period for both teams, as they tried to find their legs early in the game. After that though, both teams started to pick up the pace, and we finally started to see an actual hockey game. Halfway through the period, the Rangers wound up drawing first blood as Derick Brassard chopped in his own rebound to put the Rangers up 1-0. Just prior to the goal, J.T. Miller made an outstanding defensive play to pick Jonathan Toews' pocket, and kept the puck in the zone. Benoit Pouliot quickly snagged the puck, and found the trailing Brassard in the high slot who ripped it into a crowd. With a mad scramble at the top of the crease, Brassard took a few swats at the puck, and it wound up finding a way into the back of the net.
Even though the Rangers were able to come away with a 1-0 lead after the first period, they still gave the Hawks more chances than they would have liked too. However, the second period wound up being so good, that the Rangers only surrendered seven total shots, and kept the Hawks on their toes for a majority of the period. As good as they were in their defensive end, they weren't able to get much generated in the offensive zone. They had a few flashes at times, but Corey Crawford was there to clean up anything that came near him.
You could just feel a very strong push coming from the Blackhawks, and it wound up coming all throughout the third period. The Hawks outshot the Rangers 13-2 in the period, but Cam Talbot was outstanding, and shutdown a majority of the scoring chances. So much so, that the Garden faithful boomed up a very audible "TAL-BOT" chant, which is the first time it's happened all season long.
Finally, at the 15:53 mark, Rick Nash gave the Rangers an insurance goal to work with as he bombed one past Corey Crawford. Derek Stepan made a beautiful pass in the neutral zone to spring Nash on a partial breakaway, but Niklas Hjalmarsson made a great defensive play to knock the puck loose. Nash didn't give up on the play, quickly corralled the puck, drove to the middle of the high slot. With about three or four Hawks players surrounding him, he ripped a shot from the right faceoff dot, and wound up smoking it over the glove of Crawford.
It was a typical Nash-like goal, and it's simply amazing what he can do when he powers his way to the net like a bull. It was a huge goal, and one that wound up being the game winning goal as the Hawks quickly pounced back a few minutes later. After hemming the Rangers in their zone for two of the final three minutes, Peter Regin snapped a shot through Talbot's legs to bring the Hawks within a goal.
With only 11 seconds remaining in the game, it appeared as if the Rangers had this one all but locked up, but, the Hawks weren't going away that easily. Right off of the faceoff, Patrick Kane sprung Patrick Sharp up the boards, and made a slick saucer pass back to the far post. Kane was the recipient, but Cam Talbot was there to shutdown the final chance, and the Rangers held on to win 2-1.
That win was huge in terms of playoff position for the Rangers, as they now have a three point cushion on the Philadeliphia Flyers, and are also six points ahead of the third place Columbus Blue Jackets. The Rangers will yet another big game this Saturday afternoon as they take on the Flyers, with some major playoff implications on the line once again.Until then, let's go Rangers!