Rangers shut down Blackhawks in first game since Olympic break

Rangers left wing Rick Nash, right, celebrates his

Rangers left wing Rick Nash, right, celebrates his goal with defenseman Dan Girardi against the Chicago Blackhawks in the third period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

To Rangers backup goaltender Cam Talbot, "it felt like the longest 11 seconds in the world."

To be accurate, it was 11.6 seconds. That's the time that remained in regulation after the defending Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks cut a two-goal deficit in half and had an extra attacker on the ice at Madison Square Garden.

"I didn't think they were going to get down the ice that quick," said Talbot, who had to make saves Nos. 30 and 31 on Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, each from about 10 feet, to preserve the Rangers' 2-1 win and chalk up two points in their first game since the Olympic break.

After the Rangers controlled play and shut down Chicago's transition game for more than two periods, the Blackhawks outshot them 13-2 in the third period, and the last two shifts almost cost the Blueshirts. With goaltender Corey Crawford pulled, Peter Regin scored at 19:48, setting up a nail-biter.

"They threw everything they had at us," said Rick Nash, who had created the two-goal cushion with a power move, circling out from the right corner and zipping a low shot stick side past Crawford at 15:53 of the third. "We have to counter a bit better, but I thought it was a great defensive game and Talbot was the first star by far."

Nash's 19th goal turned out to be the winner as Talbot and the Rangers -- 17-6-1 in their last 24 games -- picked up where they had left off before the break.

Led by defenseman Marc Staal, who was questionable before the game after suffering back spasms much of the week, they made Derick Brassard's rebound goal at 10:14 of the first period stand up until Nash's score.

"We're playing against the number one offense in the league," coach Alain Vigneault said. "Trading chances was probably not the way to go, so that's what we did for the first two periods. We really backchecked hard. We were able to keep a smart, high pace. In the third, they had a big push, and the difference was the goaltending."

Talbot (11-5-0), who hadn't played in three weeks since a 2-1 loss to Edmonton here, was serenaded by the Garden crowd several times in the third period. "We know when we play our best hockey, we can beat anyone," he said. "It's a good confidence-booster coming down the stretch."

For the first two periods, the Rangers had more chances than the Blackhawks (35-12-14), killed all three Chicago power plays and took a 1-0 lead on Brassard's 12th goal.

After a slow start for both sides in the first, perhaps because of rust, Benoit Pouliot grabbed Jonathan Toews' misplay along the boards and found Brassard in front. Crawford (22 saves) stopped the initial shot, but Brassard's rebound hit the twine. The center extended his point streak to seven games and has four goals in the last five games.

Brad Richards almost made it 2-0 at 15:15, but his slap shot from the left side rang off the far post.

"When the forwards backcheck like that, it makes [the defensemen's] jobs a lot easier," said Staal, who played 20 minutes with two hits and three blocked shots. "They have such skilled forwards, they like to wind up and come with a lot of speed. Even if guys stick them from behind and bother them, it helps us be more aggressive. To come out with an effort like that, it was good, especially that it was a team like Chicago."

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