For the Rangers, four of the last five games, including the Winter Classic, had gone past 60 minutes, being decided in either overtime or shootouts.
On Wednesday, the Rangers, who were 2-0-2 in those four games, never got there.
In a game during which the quicker Blackhawks seemed to have the puck 90 percent of the time, Patrick Sharp ripped a shot from the left circle over Henrik Lundqvist’s glove at 2:24 of the third period to snap a 2-2 tie and Chicago beat the Rangers, 5-2, at the Garden. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane scored empty-netters in the final minute.
Plain and simple, the Rangers, who were 15-6-3 at home, did not have the puck enough to sufficiently test Jeff Glass, 32, who had won his NHL debut with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Oilers on Dec. 29 and lost in overtime to Calgary, 4-3, on New Year’s Eve. On Wednesday, Glass faced just 25 shots.
With 6:38 left in the third period, the Rangers had their sixth power-play when the Hawks had too many men on the ice, and came up empty. They finished 1-for-6. Lundqvist was pulled for an extra skater with just over 90 seconds left.
That afterglow from the victory at Citi Field? Gone.
“The Winter Classic was a fun game and pretty easy to get up for. You need to find ways to get up for all 82 games,” Brady Skjei said. “If you don’t bring it every night, something happens like that when you’re kind of embarrassed.”
During the first 40 minutes that the Blackhawks had dominated during five-on-five, with 52 shot attempts to 20, somehow the Rangers, backed by Lundqvist, had managed to respond to 1-0 and 2-1 deficits.
With the score 1-1, the Hawks had the Rangers on their heels and in their zone for the first half of the second period, and on a rush, Patrick Kane’s low shot went through Lundqvist, off the left post and into the crease. Marc Staal, charging back, was crosschecked from behind by Ryan Hartman and slid into the blue paint, pushing the puck across the line and upending the net at 8:56. Blackhawks center Nick Schmaltz was credited with the goal after a review; Hartman was not penalized.
Brent Seabrook’s cross-checking minor sent him to the box and with 24 seconds left in the penalty, Glass cleared the puck over the boards for a short five-on-three, and the Rangers delivered. Mika Zibanejad’s one-timer on a set-up from Pavel Buchnevich on the two-man advantage made it 2-2 at 11:32. It was Zibanejad’s first goal in seven games since his return from a concussion.
“We gave them too much, made too many mistakes,” Zibanejad said. “That’s not good enough. We gave them a short rink to play on.”
The pace of the first period was entertaining — for fans. The Hawks launched 14 shots on goal and just missed several open looks against Lundqvist. The Rangers lost the puck nine times. Lundqvist made two big stops — he got the shaft of the stick on Kane’s wrister from in front at 14:43 and when Schmaltz drove left past Ryan McDonagh across the low slot, Lundqvist followed, slid and made the stop.
But Lundqvist was helpless when Vinnie Hinostroza slipped around J.T Miller and Toews found him with a slick backhand pass at 16:09 for a 1-0 lead. Exactly two minutes later, Paul Carey spun from the high slot and sent the puck to the right point, where Nick Holden’s low slapper snuck through traffic and past Glass inside the left post to tie it at 1.
“Our execution, especially coming into their end . . . we fed their transition,” Alain Vigneault said. “We got what we deserved.”
The game was the first of three in five days, with matches in Arizona and Las Vegas on Saturday and Sunday before a bye week. In all, the Rangers (6-7-2 on the road) will play 26 of their final 42 games away from home.