CHICAGO -- It would have been easy for the New York Rangers to let frustration get the best of them Wednesday night at United Center.
Instead, they kept pressuring the Chicago Blackhawks and that pressure paid off with a 3-2 victory. Carl Hagelin broke a tie with 5:57 left in the third and goalie Henrik Lundqvist finished off a 35-save performance by fending off a furious late flurry to preserve the win.
The win capped a roller-coaster night for New York (22-20-3). The Rangers surged to a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarello but couldn't hold the lead in the second thanks to goals by Jonathan Toews and Brandon Bollig.
"I felt like it was really important after they tied it up to really stay focused and not let them get the third one, even though they had the momentum going," said Lundqvist, who allowed less than three goals for the second time in his past 12 games. "It felt like they created some big chances, but we settled things down and that was key for this win. After that second goal, we kind of took over the game again. That was kind of the turning point."
New York carried its play from the end of the second into the third, when the Rangers outworked the Blackhawks (29-8-9) and created several good scoring opportunities early.
Crawford (30 saves) stopped all 12 Rangers shots in the second, including a tip-in attempt by Chris Kreider shortly after Bollig's goal and a hard wrist shot off a mini-break by Rick Nash with 2:06 left. He continued frustrating New York in the third by stopping several prime scoring chances, including right-pad saves that denied close-range attempts by Derick Brassard during a power play and Ryan Callahan at even strength.
"He's a good goalie," Zuccarello said. "We maybe were shooting it at his pads and stuff, but good goalies make saves like that. We knew that we just had to play our way and keep grinding."
Not long after the save against Callahan, Crawford froze the puck after a shot by Marc Staal rang off the right post and landed between his pads in the crease. Instead of letting their guard down, the Rangers were still pressing.
They didn't let up until they got a goal. Hagelin finally beat Crawford off a rebound of another long shot by Staal to put the Rangers ahead, and Lundqvist made lead stand up with his play down the stretch.
"That's a goalie," Lundqvist said. "It's your job to try to be there when your team needs you and obviously we knew they were going to have some moments in this game where they were going to push really hard."
The Rangers also knew what a road win against the defending Stanley Cup champions could do for their self-esteem during an up-and-down season. They haven't strung together more than two wins since early November and hope this game sparks a run.
"I'm not going to lie," Hagelin said. "We played a really solid game and we gained a lot of confidence from this game, that's for sure."
The Blackhawks heard some blunt words afterward from coach Joel Quenneville, who wasn't pleased with their sluggish start on home ice. Richards and Zuccarello put Chicago in a 2-0 hole within the game's first 10 minutes, which forced the Blackhawks to expend a lot of effort getting even in the second.
Chicago, now 3-1-3 since the Christmas break, looked sluggish for most of the first and got outworked early in the third. Quenneville wants his team to address it quickly. It was just the third regulation loss for the Blackhawks in 24 home games and ended a 10-game stretch in which the Blackhawks had earned at least a point.
"Every game's different and you've got to play that game that's out in front of you," Quenneville said. "We found a way to get ourselves back into the game. We shouldn't be looking for excuses. We shouldn't be looking for whether we're tired. We got enough days off. We got enough time away. You've got to find meaning and purpose for every game."
He wasn't finished making his point.
"I know that human nature some nights says that it's tough to get excited about every game, but you've got to find a way when you might not have your 'A' game behind you or might not have your 'A' pace behind you," Quenneville said. "You play a smart game with a purpose and I think we need more guys contributing if that's how they're feeling."
It's how they looked right off the opening puck drop.
Richards scored 5:06 into the game to cap a nice play by Callahan by firing a shot from the right dot that appeared to clip the left skate of diving defenseman Brent Seabrook and sail through Crawford's pads. Zuccarello made it 2-0 at 9:29 by beating defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the outside, taking the puck around the net, and attempting to tuck it inside the right post on the other side. Crawford, who went post-to-post in time to stop it, watched the puck deflect forward, hit his stick and slide into the net behind him.
The Blackhawks got a good bounce of their own to start their comeback.
During a power play, Patrick Sharp fired a long shot through traffic from the blue line that hit a body in front and bounced right to Toews in the slot for the putback, which he wristed past Lundqvist at 6:17 to make it 2-1.
Bollig tied it 2-2 less than two minutes later, capping a 3-on-2 with his fourth goal, a hard wrist shot from the left dot that beat Lundqvist to the short side.
The Rangers kept Chicago from taking a lead and got back on the pedal offensively, making Crawford work hard to keep it tied until Hagelin's goal.
"I think we've been doing a good job of that, especially in the third period," Hagelin said. "We have a lot of confidence and we try not to get too frustrated. Some games the puck goes in, other games it doesn't, but if you're creating chances you stay positive."
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