In his return to Madison Square Garden, where he had played for three years, center Brad Richards scored the game-winner at 7:19 of the third period in the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory Wednesday night to end the Rangers' five-game winning streak.
"It's a bonus to get one in this building, but not in a bad way," said Richards, who was bought out of the final six years of his contract in June. "I have nothing bad to say about the organization or New York. Everyone knows how much I love playing here."
Richards skated from behind the net to beat Cam Talbot (30 saves) high glove side moments after Dan Boyle had hit the crossbar behind backup goaltender Scott Darling, who made 25 saves for his first NHL shutout. It was his 11th goal of the season.
"It was a frustrating night offensively," Derick Brassard said. "Danny hits the crossbar and 20 seconds after, Brad scored the winning goal. That's how tight these games are. The effort was there but we've got to find a way to generate more offense."
The Rangers had 15 shots on goal after two periods, the Hawks 14. But Chicago outshot the Blueshirts 17-10 in the third.
With Martin St. Louis out of the lineup with a sprained right knee, the Rangers' top three lines were shuffled and looked a little out of sync. But neither team spent much time in the offensive zone, and after scoring just 11 goals in a 5-0-1 streak, the scoring slump cost them. It was the first time the Rangers were shut out since Jan. 29, a 1-0 loss to Montreal, the Rangers' last regulation loss on home ice.
"I think we have to simplify," Derek Stepan said. "I think we've got to shoot pucks and we're going to get some funky ones to break out of this little slump. I think teams are tightening up and I think as a group, we're looking for one more pass instead of looking to shoot."
Niklas Hjalmarsson tripped Brassard with 4:04 left, but the Rangers could not score on their second power play of the game and are 1-for-their-last-23.
No other Eastern Conference teams in the postseason race played Wednesday night. So the Rangers (44-18-7, 95 points) remained five points ahead of the Islanders in the Metropolitan Division with three games in hand. The Rangers have 13 games left.
Chances were at a minimum as close checking prevailed. The Rangers won, 1-0, in overtime in Chicago on March 8, but coach Alain Vigneault said that game "was more end to end."
Only seven Rangers teams have collected 100 or more points, including the Stanley Cup championship team of 1993-94.
With 6:20 left in the second, Rick Nash stole the puck from Marian Hossa in the neutral zone and raced in on a two-on-one, but his wrister was saved by Darling. Hjalmarsson hit the left post with just under three minutes to go.
In the first period, the Rangers thwarted two Hawks power plays created by a high-stick by Kevin Hayes on David Rundblad at 6:38 and a questionable trip on Yandle when Teuvo Teravainen appeared to fall after a tap at 16:02. That raised their recent penalty-kill mark to 18 of 19.
With 7:59 left, the Blueshirts almost took a 1-0 lead when Moore banged in a loose puck on the doorstep past Darling, but the whistle had blown, and the goal was waved off.
"I wish we could have had a little better of a shooting mentality," captain Ryan McDonagh said. "It just didn't seem to be clicking for us, those pretty plays. I think we defended pretty well and wish we could've gotten a bounce or two. It wasn't meant to be."