NEW YORK -- Fresh off a gold-medal performance during the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, winger Rick Nash put the finishing touches on the New York Rangers’ 2-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Backup goaltender Cam Talbot helped lead the way as well, holding a ragged Hawks squad scoreless until the waning moments of the game. Peter Regin spoiled what would have been Talbot’s third shutout of the season with a goal with 11.6 seconds remaining. Regardless, the MSG crowd was chanting his name during the third period in recognition of a stellar performance for the 26-year-old, who provided starter Henrik Lundqvist some rest and relief after a busy Olympic tournament.
The Rangers have two games remaining until the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday, one of which comes against their division rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, on Saturday.
Farewell act? Both captain Ryan Callahan and defenseman Dan Girardi played in what could be their last game at Madison Square Garden. Both players, who are set to become unrestricted free agents in July, have yet to come to an agreement on their respective contract extensions with the club and could be moved in advance of the NHL’s deadline March 5.
Miller Time: Recalled from the American Hockey League on Tuesday, J.T. Miller made an immediate impression in the first period with an energetic few shifts. His effort to cause a Jonathan Toews’ turnover led to the Rangers’ first goal midway through the frame, as Benoit Pouliot connected with Derick Brassard, who buried his own rebound for a 1-0 lead at 10:14. Miller, summoned from the minors in wake of the injury to leading scorer Mats Zuccarello, earned a call-up with a strong showing in the AHL of late. Associate coach Scott Arniel and Jeff Gorton reported back to coach Alain Vigneault that the 20-year-old forward was “the best player on the ice” during a recent scouting trip.
Familiar foes: Making up two-thirds of what was a pretty astonishing “fourth line” for the Canadians during the Olympic Games, Nash and Patrick Sharp squared off against each other for the first time since winning gold together last weekend. With 10 returning Olympians versus seven for the Rangers (six considering Zuccarello did not play), the Hawks seemed to be suffering from a worse case of fatigue following the break. The defending champs, which boasts fellow gold medalists Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith, looked disjointed and out of sorts through the first 40 minutes of play.
Back in blue: Though Marc Staal has been battling back spasms and was a game-time decision Thursday night, the 27-year-old played against the Hawks with no apparent problems. Injured forward Derek Dorsett, who has been sidelined for almost two months with a broken leg, will be ready to return to the lineup on Saturday.