Did someone say "due"? The Eastern Conference-leading Rangers had won four straight and eight of 10 games. The struggling Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup in 2010, had lost nine straight. Each was due for a reversal.
Coach John Tortorella predicted before tonight’s 4-2 loss that the Hawks would be “desperate” and that a good start was essential. Well, in the first five minutes the Hawks looked like champs, and the Rangers and goaltender Martin Biron, well, not so much.
“There were a couple of chances for me to make saves to get momentum on our side or to stop their momentum,” said Biron, who stopped just three of the first seven Chicago shots. “I wasn’t able to do it.”
In the first minute, Jonathan Toews beat Biron through the legs on a penalty shot after Dan Girardi covered the puck in the crease. Tortorella didn’t agree, saying on replay, he saw Girardi “just brush the puck away.”
At 2:07, Nick Leddy’s long shot zipped by John Scott’s screen and went off the post and in. At the four-minute mark, Patrick Sharp raced in on a breakaway and fired the puck through Biron to make it 3-0. Marian Hossa, who had sped around with the puck for about 15 seconds while the Rangers watched to set up Leddy’s goal, took advantage of another defensive lapse, sailed in and extended the lead to 4-0 at 9:38. The Hawks confidence was back. “They were a lot hungrier in the first ten minutes and that’s where the game was won,” said Brad Richards.
The Hawks were in a different gear, and even survived a four-minute power play at 5:18, when the 6-foot-8 Scott drew four minutes for boarding Steve Eminger and roughing and Andrew Shaw went off for holding. The Rangers couldn’t convert and were 0-for-7 for the game.
Marc Staal scored his first of the year on a slapper from the left circle at 3:04 of the second, beating Corey Crawford. Eminger and Mike Rupp recorded the assists. The Hawks remain the only team in the NHL without a shutout.
Biron lost any chance for a shutout early, but Tortorella said he didn’t for “one second” consider yanking Biron. “He didn’t need to be pulled. He needed to work through it and he did. He’s done a ton for this hockey club. They had a couple breakaways and a few other things going on there. Do you want saves? Yeah. But it didn’t happen. I really respect how he hung in there.”
Biron, (10-3-1), who made just 14 saves in a 4-3 overtime win against Tampa last Thursday, kept the Rangers close with the next 15 saves.
With just over five minutes to go in the second, Marian Gaborik’s shot teetered uncovered on the goal line, but the whistle blew, infuriating both Callahan and Tortorella. A video review concluded: No goal. Both said they were told by referee Eric Furlatt that he saw the puck under Crawford’s pad.
With 4:45 to play in regulation, Ryan McDonagh’s shot from the lower left circle was deflected in by Carl Hagelin at the left post, but it was far too late. So the Rangers, (37-14-5, 79 points) lost for the second time in the last six home games, but maintained a seven-point lead over the idle second-place Bruins. And guess who's here Sunday: The last place Columbus Blue Jackets, with Rick Nash, who may be the biggest name available at the trade deadline.