CHICAGO — Whose idea was it for the Chicago hockey team to trade Artemi Panarin, anyway?
The Rangers winger, who broke into the NHL with Chicago, and won the Calder Trophy as the Rookie of the Year in 2015-16 while playing for them, showed his old team a thing or two Tuesday night as he scored two goals and had two assists — the first of those being his 500th career point — in leading the Rangers to a 6-2 victory at United Center, the Rangers’ seventh straight win and 11th in their last 12 games.
The game was marred by the scary sight of Chicago forward Jujhar Khaira leaving the ice on a stretcher midway through the second period after a devastating hit by the Rangers’ Jacob Trouba. Trouba caught an unsuspecting Khaira with his head down on a clean but heavy hit just inside the Chicago blue line. Khaira fell straight back onto the ice and did not move for several moments, as play stopped and Ryan Strome frantically waved to the emergency crew to come onto the ice.
After several minutes, Khaira was wheeled off the ice and play resumed, with 13:47 left in the second period.
Later, Chicago’s Riley Stillman tried to punish Trouba by fighting him. But Trouba, who also scored the first goal of the game, won the fight.
The Rangers did not make Trouba available to talk to the media after the game, but coach Gerard Gallant said the hit was unfortunate, but clean.
"It looked like he stepped up, and the guy [Khaira] had his head down bad,’’ Gallant said. "And you just hate to see somebody get hit that hard. I mean, in my eye it was all very clean. But it just, you know he had his head down, big time, and looking at the puck, and ‘Troubs’ stepped into him.’’
Even though he believed the hit to be clean, and he said Trouba had no intention to hurt Khaira, Gallant said an incident like that had "a bad effect’’ on both teams after it.
"It’s really hard to look at,’’ he said.
The game was tied 2-2 at the time of the hit, and the Rangers pulled away with four goals in the third period to improve their record to 17-4-3. They are second in the Metro Division, behind Washington, but their .771 points percentage (37 of a possible 48 points) is tops in the league.
Goals by Trouba, at 1:01 of the first period, and Panarin, on the power play, at 3:19 of the second period, had the game tied, after two lost defensive zone faceoffs had led to Chicago scoring two first-period goals and taking a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
In the third, Chris Kreider scored his 17th goal of the season, his 10th power-play goal, on a redirection of a shot/pass by Adam Fox at 4:59 to put the Rangers back in front 3-2, and Kevin Rooney scored his sixth goal of the season to make it 4-2 at 12:10.
Chicago pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with more than three minutes remaining, but the move backfired, as Panarin scored his second goal of the game into the empty net, with 3:10 left. Barclay Goodrow added his fourth goal of the season at 18:41 to make it 6-2.
The Rangers’ special teams were perfect on the night, with the power play going 2-for-2 and the penalty kill going 4-for-4. The Rangers have now killed 19 straight penalties over their last six games, including a five-minute major penalty against Philadelphia on Dec. 1, and the power play has scored in six of the last seven games.
"It’s hot right now,’’ Gallant said of the power play. "And the penalty kill did an unbelievable job, too. So special teams were huge for us.’’
Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, starting his second straight game, made 24 saves to improve to 4-1-1 on the season.