For the most part, the Blackhawks looked like a team that hadn't played in almost three weeks Thursday night.
Appearing ragged for most of the night coming out of the Olympic break, the Hawks lost 2-1 to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, failing to solve backup goalie Cam Talbot.
Contact information ( * required )
Talbot made 31 saves, none bigger than the left-pad stop he made on Patrick Kane in the waning seconds.
Peter Regin scored with 12 seconds left for the Hawks, who won the faceoff -- then almost tied it up. Marian Hossa's pass to Kane was anticipated perfectly by Talbot.
The Rangers got a first-period goal from Derrick Brassard and a third period score by Rick Nash.
"I thought we were a little off with our timing, our passing and maybe looking for one extra play," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters. "They defended pretty well, but I don't think we put enough pucks at the net or enough bodies at the net. It took us a long time to finally break it. It was an interesting last couple seconds.
"Certainly we need to be sharper than that."
Nash's goal turned out to be a huge one. It came at 15:53 of the third period and gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
"I really liked the way we played in the first two periods," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We're playing against the Stanley Cup Champions and we're playing against the No. 1 offense in the league. I believe that trading chances is probably not the way to go, so that's what we did for the first two periods. We were really solid. We really back checked hard."
Vigneault got a big effort from Talbot, whom he elected to start over Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist led Sweden to the silver medal at Sochi.
"In the third they had a big push and the difference was the goaltending," Vigneault said. "Cam came up extremely big in key moments, especially at the end there and that made the difference for us. We found a way to get that second goal. Nash made a huge play on that real power move and a real good shot and he gave us a 2-goal lead.
"To come out and beat the defending champs coming off a break like that is a good measuring stick for us moving forward, so we know when we play our best hockey we can beat anyone. It's a good confidence booster for us coming down the stretch."
Nash called it a solid defensive game by the Rangers.
"I don't think we gave them much until the last two shifts there," Nash said. "Obviously they threw everything they had at us. We still have to counter a bit better, but I thought it was a great defensive game, and Talbot was first star by far. He was unbelievable."
That's 2 straight losses by the Hawks, who also fell to Phoenix in the final game before the Olympic break.
"They were checking and took the lead and weren't looking to generate a whole lot," Quenneville said. "They did a good job of it, but we weren't crisp with the puck.
"I liked some guys' game. Some guys were better than others. We didn't give up a whole lot, which is usually the way we evaluate our team. But we didn't generate. I look back at the last two games and we didn't give up hardly anything, but we don't have much to show for it offensively which is kind of disappointing based on what we're accustomed to."
•Follow Tim's Blackhawks and hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone.