It took 63 minutes and 41 shots, but the Blackhawks finally got the win most thought they would on Wednesday.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist played perhaps his best game in a few years, and all the credit should be given to him for the one point New York took away from the United Center. The Blackhawks dominated nearly every part of the game, but Lundqvist was up to the challenge.
Indeed, the Rangers played contrary to their track record on Wednesday. A team averaging over 15 penalty minutes a game were only penalized once in the first two periods, and there weren’t any fights between two teams that haven’t had any trouble dropping the gloves.
The Hawks defense was again superb, taking the puck away well, winning the puck in the corners, and keeping the puck away from Cristobal Huet for most of the night. But on New York’s third shot of the game, they were able to jump to a 1-0 lead that would stand until late in the third period.
In that third frame, on a power play, the Hawks put a ferocious attack on net and finally got a rebound from Lundqvist in traffic. With Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews both hammering away, it was the captain that finally slid it under Lundqvist to get the doughnut off the board.
Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith did their usual magnificent job keeping Marian Gaborik, the leading goal scorer in the NHL, off the board, though he was credited with the assist on Chris Higgins’ goal. The Hawks superior speed and puck handling was consistently better than the Rangers all night.
Except for Lundqvist.
The Rangers’ goaltender stopped 30 shots through the first two periods, standing on his head on many occassions. On the other end of the ice, Huet only had to face 18 shots including the overtime period to earn the win.
Just over half way throught he overtime, Dustin Byfuglien took a loose puck coast-to-coast, outskating two Rangers in a burst of speed rarely seen from the 250-pound power forward, and made a gorgeous move to beat Lundqvist to end a frustrating night for the Hawks’ shooters.
Byfuglien is now tied for the team lead with nine goals; Toews, despite missing four games early this year with a concussion, already has eight.