Brad Richards, Scott Darling enjoy unforgettable outings in win at Rangers

NEW YORK -- The wins can come anywhere, and lately they're coming everywhere. The Chicago Blackhawks will take them, every one of them.

Some mean just a little bit more. This one did.

It wasn't the Blackhawks' biggest victory of the season, this 1-0 defeat of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. But it had to be the sweetest one for 34-year-old center Brad Richards -- and for 26-year-old backup goalie Scott Darling.

Richards has been in the NHL for 16 years and has scored 287 goals. But the one he got Wednesday night came in a building he loves against the team that bought out his contract last summer.

"A great feeling," Richards said. "You never want to say it, but this was a little special."

Darling has been in the NHL for six months. This was his 10th game -- and his first shutout.

"I'm thrilled," Darling said. "An amazing stage to do it on."

It wasn't a bad stage for the Hawks, who brought a three-game winning streak into New York to face a Rangers team that had lost just once in regulation over the past month and a half, and held the overall lead in the NHL standings.

The Hawks' bigger focus right now is on the Central Division standings, and Wednesday's win brought them within two points of the second-place Nashville Predators (with two games in hand), and within three points of the first-place St. Louis Blues (with the same number of games played).

But winning a tight game against another one of the NHL's best teams felt significant.

"That was a big win for us," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said.

It was especially big for Richards, who hasn't scored much for the Blackhawks but now has two game-winning goals in the past four games. As careful as he was to say how much love he has for the Rangers organization and their fans, there is no escaping the fact that New York made the decision to buy out the six remaining seasons on what had been a nine-year contract.

Richards seemed to have an extra jolt of energy all night (he had a game-high six shots), which he probably would attribute to being back in the building where he played for the Rangers against the Los Angeles Kings in June's Stanley Cup finals.

His goal Wednesday night came at 7:19 of the third period, and it came in almost shocking fashion. In a game where no one had any space to maneuver ("It was almost like a chess match," Quenneville said), Richards was able to skate around to the front of the Rangers' net unchecked.

"I was looking to make a play," Richards said. "I guess they figured I was probably passing it. I got time to wait, and I figured I may as well shoot myself."

He did, and the shot beat Cam Talbot to give the Blackhawks a lead.

Darling, meanwhile, stopped all 25 shots the Rangers sent his way, although he did get help from the crossbar on a Dan Boyle attempt just before the Richards goal. Playing for the first time since Feb. 27, when he lost 4-0 in Tampa, Darling had to make a big stop on a Rick Nash breakaway midway through the first period.

"I was thinking one of the best goal scorers in the world, with a really long reach, is about to have all the time in the world," Darling said. "I just tried to surprise him. He read my pokecheck, and I was lucky he hit me in the leg with the puck."

Quenneville had considered playing No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford for a second straight night, but he looked at Crawford's busy third period Tuesday against the New York Islanders, and also at the Blackhawks' busy upcoming schedule, and went with Darling instead.

As well as Crawford has played lately, he couldn't have done any better than Darling at Madison Square Garden. And Darling certainly couldn't have been any happier.

"It's one of the most famous arenas in the world, against one of the most iconic jerseys there is," Darling said.

Brad Richards couldn't have said it better himself.