NEW YORK – In the second period, Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger had to take some time away from the ice while he attended to his face, which had just absorbed a blistering shot off the stick of Rangers center Brad Richards.
Kruger, who returned to the ice after making sure everything was still in its right place, certainly received his wake-up call as the Hawks played their first game back following the Olympic break.
Metaphorically speaking, the rest of the Hawks could have used a puck to the face in a malaise-filled 2-1 defeat to the Rangers victory at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night
Whether it was wobbly legs on the part of the Hawks’ 10 Olympians or rust from those that stayed behind, the Hawks’ execution was shoddy at best as the Rangers applied the pressure for much of the night. Derick Brassard scored in the first period while Rick Nash added the clincher late in the third.
The Hawks — who had not been shut out the entire season before a 2-0 loss to the Coyotes just before the Olympic break — were saved from a second consecutive goose egg after newcomer Peter Regin scored his first goal for the Blackhawks with 11.6 seconds remaining.
In the final sequence, Patrick Kane had a chance to stuff to rebound home against Rangers backup goaltender Cam Talbot, but could not stuff it home.
Henrik Lundqvist was given the night off as he recovers from his silver-medal trip to Sochi as Sweden’s goalie.
After the two teams engaged in a proper feeling-out phase in the first few minutes, the Rangers began to strike with purpose.
They took the early lead in shots 10-3, with the 10th being a goal from center Derick Brassard at 10:14.
After the Rangers put heavy pressure on Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, Broussard fired a wrist shot from directly in front of Crawford. Crawford stopped the first shot but couldn’t react in time to save rebound, which Broussard put home to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
One of the Hawks’ best chances came just before that with Kane taking a long ricochet off Crawford’s pad down the ice for a two-on-one with Andrew Shaw. Shaw fired an open slap shot from the left that sailed high.
The Hawks also couldn’t take advantage of two power plays in the period, coming up virtually empty on the first power play after Marc Staal was whistled for tripping a 12:12. They put a little more heat on Talbot on the next power play when J.T. Miller was called for hooking. Ben Smith had a chance to put in a rebound from Brandon Bollig wrist shot, but Cabot reacted quickly enough to save Smith’s shot.
In the second period, the Hawks couldn’t snap out of their funk. Their first shot in the period didn’t come until 7:20 had gone by. Meanwhile, several mishandled pucks and errant passes allowed the Rangers to control possessions and get many more quality chances at the net than the Hawks.
The Hawks put some initial pressure on Talbot oer the first six minutes of the third period, but Nash sent in a wrister at 15:53.