CHICAGO – If Corey Crawford was intent on proving Team Canada wrong for leaving him off the roster for the Winter Olympics, the first 20 minutes of the Blackhawks goaltender’s effort against the Rangers wasn’t going to do it.
The next 34 minutes or so, however, Crawford put together an
Olympian effort that, in the end, fell just short in a 3-2 loss to the Rangers in an Original Six showdown Wednesday night at the United Center.
Crawford yielded two shaky goals in the opening period, but steadied himself to put together a strong effort before the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin scored the game-winner
with 5 minutes, 57
to snap the Hawks’ season-long points streak at 10 games.
The Hawks have dropped three of their first four games to start the new year to fall to 29-8-9 on the season.
“The biggest thing is coming out to play a little better overall,” Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. “We’re getting out-worked in a few of these games. Especially in the first, we were sloppy. We got better as the game went along.”
Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarello also scored for the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist (35 saves) came out on top in the goaltending duel with Crawford (29).
Jonathan Toews and Brandon Bollig scored for the Hawks as they erased the two-goal deficit, only to see the Rangers prevail.
“The second period we came out and played the way we wanted,” Hawks winger Kris Versteeg said. “The last couple of games we haven’t been there for the full 60. It’s a long season, so we just have to learn from these.”
Richards started things for the Rangers in the opening period, when the veteran center worked himself behind the Hawks defense and rifled a wrist shot from the right circle that zipped through Crawford’s pads.
Later, Zuccarello carried the puck into the Hawks’ zone, circled around the net with defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in pursuit and wrapped a shot into the net, as Crawford was slow to the post for a 2-0 Rangers edge.
The second was a different story. Toews jump-started the Hawks with a power-play goal.
With Derick Brassard in the box for interfering with Bryan Bickell, Patrick Sharp launched a shot from the point that didn’t get through but landed at the skates of Toews. The captain didn’t miss with a shot from the slot, and the sleepy crowd of 21,493 leaped to its feet.
Buoyed by the goal, the Hawk kept coming and tied it on a goal by an unexpected source. Bollig carried the puck into the offensive zone, took advantage of too much of a gap by Rangers blue-liner Dan Girardi and flicked a wrister past Lundqvist to the stick side.
Hagelin picked up the winner when he shoveled in a rebound of a Marc Staal shot off his backhand.
Star of the game: Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers, 35 saves
Up next: Blackhawks at Canadiens, 6 p.m. Saturday (WGN/720 AM)