Along the Boards: Blackhawks overwhelmed late in 6–3 loss to the New York Rangers

  

With the Chicago Blackhawks’ playoff odds all but at 0%, the team needed to make some serious ground up against an Original Six opponent, the New York Rangers, on Wednesday. The Blackhawks and Rangers both sat eight points out in the West and East wild card standings, respectively, entering the contest.

In the first period, the Hawks looked like a team that knew they were going to be sellers come Monday’s trade deadline. Within 90 seconds, the Hawks were already down 1–0 due to an apparent allergy to playing defense. Adam Boqvist was easily beat by Filip Chytil up the side boards and Chytil put the puck through the five hole of Chicago goalie Robin Lehner. It was very apparent that the Hawks’ biggest weakness in the first period—much like this season—was puck control and they could not seem to accomplish it on either side of the ice.

The Blackhawks only had a few good shots late in the first and it was because of a slashing penalty on Rangers wing Brett Howden. Alex DeBrincat had a shot that hit the side post for what would have been the game-tying goal. The Blackhawks got most of their 12 first-period shots on goal on that power play alone while the Rangers spread their 12 over the length of the period. As always, Lehner needed some help. New York led 1–0 after 20 minutes.

In the second period, the Blackhawks did something they have not done in a while: looked like a team that wanted to play playoff hockey. They came out with speed and looked more eager to resuscitate a season that at many times has looked dead on arrival. That glimmer of hope would come in the form of captain Jonathan Toews and rookie phenom Dominik Kubalik. As New York was putting a lot of pressure on Lehner with back-to-back chances, the puck slid between the legs of the Chicago netminder for what looked to be a 2–1 Rangers lead. But alas, enter Toews. He got to the net just in time to poke the puck away from crossing the goal line. The home team looked hungry in the second and they would get fed shortly after.

The Hawks pulled out an old classic with a new twist as Patrick Kane slid the puck across the ice to Duncan Keith who then slung it to Kubalik who just beat the skate and pad of goalie Igor Shesterkin to tie things up at 1–1. This goal was Kubalik’s rookie leading 24th goal and Keith’s 500th career assist. A very nice look at both past and present coming together for this team in transition. Not only did the Blackhawks look more agile and determined, but they also were not afraid to get physical.

On the other end of the ice, Lehner earned a roughing penalty for shoving Rangers forward Brendan Lemieux after Lemieux pushed David Kampf following the whistle. However, that would be all of the action for the rest of the frame. The Blackhawks outshot the Rangers 16–10 in the second period and seemed poised to chip away at the Western Conference wild card standings tied 1–1 heading into the third period.

What goes up, unfortunately, must come down, at least for the Rangers. The third period saw seven goals scored, but the Blackhawks were not the benefactor of most of them. Almost three minutes in, Pavel Buchnevich buried a solid pass from Chris Kreider in front of the net to put New York ahead 2–1 and the Rangers would not trail ever again. New York scored again, 90 seconds later, in the form of a power play goal from the elder Strome brother, Ryan. Olli Maatta was hit with a holding penalty and the older Strome scored his 15th on the season to put the Rangers up 3–1. Kubalik picked up his 25th goal of the season, and second of the night, two minutes later to pulling the Hawks within one again at 3–2, but the Rangers just refused to let up.

Kreider scored his 24th on the season for a 4–2 Rangers lead and Artemi Panarin got an unassisted goal for his 30th on the season to push the gap to 5–2 to get his revenge on his former team. The younger Strome, Dylan, could not handle a pass from Maatta and it ended up in the Panarin’s bread basket.

Drake Caggiula tried to keep the dwindling home crowd invested when he buried a crisp pass from Toews off the boards for his seventh on the season to make the score 5–3 New York, but it was too little, too late. Two minutes later, Mika Zibanejad just barely squeaked a nice pass from Buchnevich to the left side of Lehner for the Rangers’ sixth goal of the game and fifth of the period. Chicago lost this one 6–3 late and the “For Sale” sign was firmly nailed up at the United Center. This one was over well before the final horn sounded, but it did not make the loss any less devastating. The Blackhawks needed a miracle on the 40th anniversary of “Miracle on Ice,” but it was not to be.

The Blackhawks return to action on Friday night against the Nashville Predators in Chicago. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CST.

Center Ice Forums Along the Boards: Blackhawks overwhelmed late in 6–3 loss to the New York Rangers

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