The Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers faced off for the second time in five days, with a few notable changes since their 1-0 shutout loss on Friday night. While some things remained consistent from the previous meeting, with Antti Raanta getting the start over Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers missing similar players to injury, the Blackhawks had a couple big changes. Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook both returned to the lineup tonight at Madison Square Garden and their return spurred a high energy effort with lots of chances on both ends of the ice.
This is the exact game that the New York Rangers excel at, however, the Blackhawks are at their best when they score on the break, transitioning out of their defensive zone. With both teams generating such quality opportunities, this could have easily been a higher scoring match. These two teams created a highly entertaining game of hockey, and the Blackhawks were able to take this low scoring affair thanks largely to Scott Darling’s tremendous performance.
Jonathan Toews’ return to the ice motivated the Blackhawks as they started the game with a visible energy and jumped out to an early 7-1 shot advantage, dominating the first ten minutes. Many of these shots came from an invigorated effort on the man advantage after a Brady Skjei hooking penalty. While Chicago did not score during those two minutes, they generated a handful of quality opportunities and set the tone for the rest of the period.
With both teams trading chances during the remainder of the period, Scott Darling and Antti Raanta graced fans with an encore of the stellar goaltending displayed on Friday night. Both goaltenders made premium saves at multiple times, as well as benefitting from some missed opportunities, to keep the score knotted at zero after a back and forth first period.
The Rangers came out on fire to start the second period. They are one of the best teams in the league during the second period, and they utilized their speed to generate plenty of chances. New York finally got caught pushing a bit too much as the Blackhawks transitioned into the offensive zone where Trevor Van Riemsdyk received an Artemi Panarin feed in the slot. Van Riemsdyk fired the puck across his body, falling down in the process, and past Raanta’s blocker for the first tally of the game.
Less than three minutes after Van Riemsdyk broke open the scoring, Jesper Fast bumped a puck out of mid-air, then smacked it past Darling before it fell to the ice. A terrific display of hand-eye coordination, Fast channeled his inner Sidney Crosby for a highlight reel goal that evened the score at one.
For as much as the Blackhawks dominated play in the first period, the Rangers dictated nearly all of the second period. Late in the period, Darling stopped a flurry of attempts including a diving save, moving quickly to his left. Less than a minute later, Brian Campbell skated beneath the net with the puck and found Artem Anisimov standing alone in from of Raanta. A case of blown coverage by Rangers defenseman, Nick Holden, left Anisimov to pound in a goal from close, sending the Blackhawks to the locker room with a 2-1 lead.
Artem Anisimov goal
NYR 1 pic.twitter.com/oJr7bq50C3
— Blackhawks Breakdown (@HawksBreakdown) December 14, 2016
Scott Darling continued to show why he is so valuable to the Blackhawks. With Corey Crawford still sidelined due to the emergency appendectomy he had at the beginning of the month, Darling showed against the Rangers that he is one of the league’s better backups. Multiple chances that had the fans at MSG jumping out of their seats were stymied by Darling’s desperation saves.
While the Blackhawks owned the first period and the Rangers owned the second, the third period brought more balanced play as both sides were barely kept out of the net, be it by diving saves, or ringing crossbars. As the clock ran down, New York continued to put pressure on, and Darling consistently answered the call on his way to the 33-save victory.
CHI – T. van Riemsdyk (1) assisted by A. Panarin and A. Anisimov
NYR – J. Fast (3) assisted by O. Lindberg
CHI – A. Anisimov (13) assisted by B. Campbell and A. Panarin
THW Three Stars
First: S. Darling (33 Saves, .971 SV%)
Second: A. Anisimov (Game-winning goal, Assist)
Third: A. Panarin (2 Assists)
Chicago Blackhawks at New York Islanders
Barclays Center – 6:00 p.m. CST on Thursday, Dec. 15.
Broadcast channels – CSN Chicago & MSG-Plus
2016-17 Season Series:
First matchup of the season