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Lundqvist, Rangers ruin Blackhawks' banner-raising

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks had a pregame commemoration of their 2015 Stanley Cup championship, but it was the New York Rangers who celebrated after the game at United Center on Wednesday.

The Rangers opened the season with a 3-2 victory against the defending champions on the strength of three first-period goals.

"We talk about having good starts, and I thought our first period was really strong," said Rangers center Derek Stepan, who scored New York's third goal at 19:01 of the first. "[In the] second and third [periods], we sat on our toes a little too much, but that's something we can make adjustments on. We were able to hang on and win a road game."

Center Oscar Lindberg and defenseman Kevin Klein scored the other goals for the Rangers in the first, with Lindberg opening the scoring at 1:43 with his first NHL goal and Klein scoring off a one-timer at 16:38.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, starting his 10th consecutive season-opening game, made 32 saves. Forward J.T. Miller had two assists.

Miller's line featuring Lindberg at center and speedy former Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg at right wing, frustrated Chicago early. They created the first two goals and made Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford use a sprawling pad save to prevent a third.

"We'd had a week of practice and a [preseason] game together before [this]," Miller said. "We're always talking on the bench or in the locker room, and I think we're all on the same page. I played with [Lindberg] a little bit in Hartford [of the American Hockey League], and [Stalberg] is a great talent. He just flies out there. That kind of makes it easier and just spreads [opposing teams] out. I think our line just did a good job of communicating and playing our game."

Forwards Teuvo Teravainen and Artemi Panarin scored for Chicago, and Crawford made 24 saves. The Blackhawks couldn't overcome an early lack of focus following the banner ceremony.

Chicago outshot New York 34-27, including 14-7 in the third, but coach Joel Quenneville said he would address certain aspects of the game at practice Thursday.

"First period, I think we had a little delay in our switch, with the puck or without the puck and going to people rather slowly," Quenneville said. "We got better as the game went on and did some good things, but we gave them a couple goals late in the first that were definitely preventable."

Some of the new players brought in during the offseason were on the ice during those goals, which were scored 2:23 apart by Klein and Stepan for a 3-1 lead after the first period.

Forward Ryan Garbutt, acquired in a trade that sent forward Patrick Sharp to the Dallas Stars, was on the ice along with Andrew Desjardins and Andrew Shaw for Klein's goal. Defenseman Trevor Daley and center Artem Anisimov each took a minus when Stepan scored at 19:01 by chipping a loose puck in the crease into the net.

Panarin scored at 14:24 of the first to tie the game, 1-1, and Teravainen brought the Blackhawks to within a goal by scoring at 6:55 of the second to make it 3-2. It was the first NHL goal for Panarin, who signed with Chicago as a free agent out of the Kontinental Hockey League.

Right wing Patrick Kane drew the defense toward him at the half wall before sending a pass to Panarin drifting unchecked down the slot. Panarin then beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot.

"[My] emotions were kind of over the top," Panarin said. "I was trying to remember the reactions of the crowd and got overwhelmed. I couldn't hear anything. I was really happy. Too bad we didn't win. Party kind of ended a little too soon."

Trailing 3-2 in the third, the Blackhawks made a couple of strong pushes for the tying goal. Lundqvist and the Rangers' defense denied each. The closest call was when Lundqvist stopped a point-blank shot by Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews with 1:00 left.

Kane jabbed the puck into the net from under Lundqvist's right pad, but the play was blown dead. It was reviewed and the call on the ice was upheld.

Chicago was able to keep the puck in the Rangers' defensive zone, but couldn't find a shooting lane in the final 18 seconds.

"They like to go across [with passes] a lot," Lundqvist said. "They had a couple, but not a lot. Great job by the guys. I think they were reading plays really well."

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