By Brad Vandenberk
NBC Wednesday rivalry came to town on Wednesday night for the New York Rangers lone visit to the United Center this season. After coming off a shootout loss on Sunday against the Sharks, the Blackhawks were looking to continue their eastern conference domination. New York also lost their last game in a shootout as well. The excitement was high for this one as the Hawks tied the league for most Olympic athletes sending 10 players to Sochi. Only the Blues and Red Wings are the only other teams that share this honor. The Hawks haven’t necessarily rung in the New Year in style. They are 1-0-2 in 2014. With an Olympic break looming in less than 4 weeks, most players are looking to rest and enjoy the time off.
Corey Crawford was in net for the home team and Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, was between the pipes for the Rangers. Michael Kostka and Sheldon Brookbank got a bird’s eye view of this one. Recently require Dan Carcillo made his Rangers debut returning to the United Center.
The Hawks opened up the period testing Lundqvist early. Nick Leddy sent a shot on which is tipped by Andrew Shaw and the big Swede who reads it perfectly. Getting the team Canada nod, igniting Rick Nash, who was very quick and noticeable right off the hop. The Rangers waste no time getting one past Crawford. Brad Richards breaks in on a 2 on 1 with Ryan Callahan; he elects to keep the puck and sends it right through the five hole of Crawford 1-0. After the goal Bryan Bickell, Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa get some great chances to tie it up, but cannot solve Lundqvist. Brandon Bollig takes the first penalty of the game when he uses his fists instead of his words. During the power play, Mats Zuccarello enters the Hawks zone with speed and heads right around the net untouched wrapping the puck in behind Crawford 2-0. The Hawks continue to push and it pays off. Ryan McDonagh sends Bollig into the boards awkwardly and gets called for boarding. The Hawks can’t seem to muster up any momentum and the period ends with a 2-0 Rangers lead and the Hawks holding the shot advantage 15-9.
The pace continues to open the second for both teams. Chris Kreider breaks in on Crawford who makes the save. Bollig is all over the net trying to stuff home a rebound. Once again when the Hawks continue to push, the Rangers continue to struggle to keep up and take another penalty. This time it’s Derick Brassard who gets called for interference. The Rangers get a shorthanded chance, but Crawford stands strong. During the power play Patrick Sharp sends a point shot through that hits Dan Girardi in the chest, as the puck drops in front of the net. Toews wastes no time and rips it past Lundqvist 2-1. Nash again grabs a loose puck and bursts into the Hawks zone. Moments later, Bollig cruises down the left wing and snipes a shot short side on Lundqvist tying the score at 2. The Rangers come right back at the Hawks. Even Carcillo rekindled some old friendships sending Shaw into the boards. The UC crowd at this stage seemed a little bored at the play on the ice. The period ends with the scored tied at 2 and the Hawks still ahead in the shots department 26-21.
It didn’t take long for the Hawks to give the Rangers a power play on fresh ice. Less than 3 minutes in, Michal Rozsival sends a puck over the glass and heads to the box for delay of game. Crawford stays sharp and keeps the score tied. Marc Staal walks in and rings the fans ears off the post. Again the Rangers struggle with the Hawks speed and Benoit Pouliot gets called for hooking. The Hawks can’t convert. At the 5:57 mark of the final frame, The Hawks have trouble clearing their zone and Carl Hagelin makes them pay. He sends home his own rebound home and the Rangers take a 3-2 lead. Hossa gets a great break away opportunity but Lundqvist once again looked in Olympic form. Crawford heads to the bench and the Hawks try everything to score. Sharp’s rebound his gathered by Toews who is stopped and even Kane gets robbed on the door step. The game ends and the Hawks lose 3-2.
Sharp Toews Hossa Keith Seabrook
Versteeg Handzus Kane Oduya Hjalmarsson
Bickell Shaw Saad Leddy Rozsival
Bollig Kruger Smith
-Hawks outshot the Rangers 37-32.
-Hawks go 1/3 on the power play with the Rangers going 1/2 .
-Duncan Keith led all Hawks in TOI with 22:32, next closest was Kane at 21:36.
-Toews was dominating in the Face off dot going 12/21 Handzus 4/6, Shaw 4/8 and Kruger 7/14.
-Keith also gets an assist on the Hawks power play goal to continue to lead all defensemen in the NHL in points with 43.
-Next up the Hawks travel to Crawford’s home town of Montreal. Another original 6 match up on Saturday night.