NEW YORK (AP) — Cam Talbot, subbing for resting Olympian Henrik Lundqvist, stopped 31 shots, and Derick Brassard and Rick Nash scored as the New York Rangers returned from the Sochi break with a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.
Talbot got the nod after Lundqvist received extended work in Sweden’s run to the gold medal game in the Olympics. Talbot made the most of his opportunity, getting his 11th career win in 18 NHL games — all this season.
He was 11.6 seconds away from a shutout, but Peter Regin scored after goalie Corey Crawford was pulled. Patrick Kane nearly tied it seconds later, but Talbot stopped him with his pad.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks came in with an NHL-best 202 goals and 3.37 goals-per-game average this season.
New York has won six of seven. Lundqvist is expected to play Saturday in Philadelphia when the Rangers start a back-to-back set.
Brassard scored in the first period, and Nash doubled the lead with 4:07 left in the game.
Crawford made 22 saves for Chicago, which was nearly blanked for the second straight game after not being shut out in its first 59 games this season.
The starting lineups featured seven Olympians and four members of Canada’s gold-medal winning team. The Rangers and Blackhawks had been off since Feb. 7.
The Rangers got off to a quick start and grabbed the lead 10:14 in on Brassard’s 12th goal and fourth in five games. Benoit Pouliot intercepted a clearing attempt in the middle of the Chicago zone and passed the puck left to Brassard for a shot from the slot. The puck bounced back to Brassard, who fired it in.
New York took the only two penalties in the opening frame, but killed them in front of Talbot, who made his fourth start in 11 games. He denied Kane in close during Chicago’s second power play with 2:06 left in the first period.
Chicago failed on its third advantage of the night late in the second after Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, the subject of trade rumors, was sent off for hooking.
Talbot kept the Blackhawks at bay during the scoreless second period — turning aside all eight shots in the frame and 19 through 40 minutes. His best stop came with 5:30 left in the second when he moved quickly to his right to deny a hard drive by Brandon Saad that appeared headed for the inside of the left post.
Chicago nearly got even 5:29 into the third, but multiple whacks at a loose puck amid six players in the crease weren’t enough to push it across the line. A video review confirmed the puck never entered the net.
In the second, Crawford briefly let a long shot trickle behind him before he quickly reached back to cover it. He then blocked a deflected shot by Nash early in the third to keep the Blackhawks’ deficit at one goal, but Nash snapped his team-leading 19th goal past him late to seal New York’s win.
NOTES: Rangers D Marc Staal shook off back spasms and played. D Justin Falk participated in warmups as a precaution and was scratched. Falk has sat out 20 straight games since Dec. 29. … Rangers RW Derek Dorsett is close to returning from a broken leg, but sat out his 18th straight game. Miller, recalled from the AHL this week, earned an assist on Brassard’s goal. He took the place of Mats Zuccarello, who broke a hand during the Olympics. … Chicago C Marcus Kruger was struck by a puck in the second period and returned.
(© 2014by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)