CHICAGO — In an oh-so-tight battle of the backup goaltenders, it came down to one shot.
Defenseman Nick Holden beat Chicago goalie Scott Darling at 55 seconds of overtime Friday night as the Rangers edged the Blackhawks, 1-0. Antti Raanta, with 26 saves, earned the shutout.
It was the Rangers’ first overtime win of the season and the second time the Blueshirts had gone past regulation. The first one was a 3-2 shootout loss to Florida on Nov. 20 at the Garden.
Raanta, a former Blackhawk who was traded in June 2015, made 17 saves in a 2-1 victory in Winnipeg on Thursday night and was given the rare back-to-back start over struggling Henrik Lundqvist. The move worked as well as could be imagined as the Rangers concluded their two-game trip to frosty Winnipeg and Chicago with four points.
“I think everybody knows that Hank’s the guy, but at this time, Antti’s game is just a little better than Hank’s,” coach Alain Vigneault said before the game. “We need to win hockey games, and Antti played real well [Thursday] and he wasn’t that busy. This is a familiar spot for him, so we just felt it was the right thing to do. I’ve got to think he’ll be highly motivated.”
Raanta improved to 15-0-3 at the United Center, thanks to Holden’s fourth goal.
“The guys have been playing great in front of me,’’ Raanta said. “We were trying to be careful with their first two lines. I got a good start to the game, got a little nervousness out of my system, in a great building with great fans.”
Holden said of the winning goal, “We got kind of a three-on-two. [Ryan] McDonagh made a change, I jumped on. [Derek] Stepan made a great play, quick turnaround, popped it right to me and I had some speed. [Chris] Kreider was driving to the net, so I kind of looked at him and shot it over the blocker.”
It was a nail-biter through regulation. Marian Hossa appeared to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead at the six-minute mark of the third period when his shot from the high slot went through Raanta’s pads. Vigneault challenged the call, arguing that Hossa was offside. A video review agreed, and the call was overturned.
The puck slid through Raanta’s legs at the left post but was scooped out of the crease by Mats Zuccarello with 2:13 left.
“It’s a tremendous effort by us to stick with it and not get flustered. It’s being gutsy, competing on pucks and coming out with two points,” McDonagh said. “And Raanta, he’s a happy-go-lucky, always-smiling guy, but when it comes to stopping the puck, he’s as competitive as anybody. He certainly had a little extra tonight against this opponent, and it was great to see him stand on his head multiple times.”
“He was our best player,’’ J.T. Miller said of Raanta. “Could’ve got ugly there first few shifts. Made some highlight-reel saves.”
The scoreless second period continued in the defensive style of the first, with a late flurry of saves from each goaltender.
It was fairly quiet until Raanta stopped Patrick Kane point-blank from just below the right circle with 11:55 left in the period.
In addition to the goalie situation, each team was missing significant players. For the Rangers, Rick Nash (groin), Mika Zibanejad (broken leg), Pavel Buchnevich (back) and Matt Puempel (concussion) were out. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and defenseman Brent Seabrook were injured as well.