Richards, Darling lift Blackhawks over surging Rangers
NEW YORK -- Brad Richards has spent many nights on the ice at Madison Square Garden, playing with and against the New York Rangers. His latest appearance provided quite a lasting memory.
Richards broke a scoreless deadlock 7:19 into the third period, and young Chicago teammate Scott Darling made 25 saves in his first outing at the "World's Most Famous Arena" as the Blackhawks edged the Rangers 1-0 on Wednesday night for their fourth straight win.
Richards spent three seasons with the Rangers before having the final six years of his contract bought out after New York's trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 2014.
"Tonight was a little special," the veteran forward said. "It's a bonus to get one in this building against them, but not in a bad way. I have nothing bad to say about the organization or New York. Everyone knows how much I love playing here.
"It was pretty cool to score against them and win the game."
Right after Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle rang a shot off the crossbar behind Darling, Richards got the puck in front of the New York net, waited patiently and snapped a shot past Cam Talbot for his 11th goal.
"We hit the crossbar, and not even 20 seconds after we're losing the game," said Rangers forward Derick Brassard, who scored in overtime on March 8 at Chicago to give the Rangers a 1-0 win.
The Blackhawks stretched their winning streak to four and snapped the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers' winning run at five.
Richards has five career goals against New York. His latest was enough to make a winner of Darling, who played for just the third time since Dec. 13. He improved to 7-3 and earned his first NHL shutout in 10 career games.
"This was special for me against them in this famous arena," the 26-year-old Darling said. "An Original Six matchup on national TV. You can't ask for more. It was a great night."
Talbot, who stopped 30 shots, had been 5-0-1 with a 1.00 goals-against average in his previous six games. He hasn't allowed more than two goals in a game in his last seven appearances.
"I felt really good again," Talbot said. "I felt like I was seeing the puck well and controlling the puck. It's tough when a guy like Richie gets that much time in the slot. You almost have to try to wait him out, but it was a tough situation and he made a nice play."
The Rangers fell to 15-4-2 since No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist was forced out of the lineup by a neck injury. Lundqvist has been cleared to return to practice and is getting closer to rejoining the lineup.
New York has scored only 11 goals in its past seven games.
Much like the previous meeting between these teams, goals were tough to come by. Talbot got the best of No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford in that one.
Chicago had scoring chances in the first period of the rematch, but failed to convert on a pair of power plays.
Jonathan Toews, who had two goals and two assists Tuesday in the Blackhawks' 4-1 home victory over the New York Islanders, nearly gave Chicago the lead with 13:02 left in the first, but his chance at the right post during a power play was snagged by Talbot's glove.
Richards was denied 1:23 later during the same advantage when Talbot blocked his shot from the slot and covered the rebound.
Darling matched his New York counterpart and turned aside a couple of chances in close. Dominic Moore then slid the puck into the net, but the goal didn't count because the whistle had already sounded. Rick Nash also got in tight later in the period, only to be denied by Darling.
There was a moment of confusion with 9:29 left in the second when Derek Stepan's drive hit the side of the net to Darling's right. Fans behind the goalie thought the puck had gone in and began cheering. The spotlight operator also was fooled and shined lights in the crease.
It wasn't to be.
"The difference was we go down get a chance, hit the crossbar, then they come down and score," Stepan said. "That's kind of the way hockey is."
NOTES: A video highlighting Richards' time with the Rangers was shown during the first period. It ended with the words "Once a Ranger, Always a Ranger." Richards acknowledged cheers from the crowd with a wave from the bench. ... Lundqvist will remain out for at least another week as he begins practicing with teammates and gets back into game shape. ... Rangers RW Martin St. Louis (knee) missed his first game of the season.