Blackhawks have a new Darling between the pipes
Scott Darling is more comfortable in his second full NHL season, and he’s been coming up big for the Chicago Blackhawks with starting goalie Corey Crawford sidelined.
Darling stopped 33 shots and Artem Anisimov scored the winning goal late in the second period as the Central Division-leading Blackhawks edged the New York Rangers 2-1 on Tuesday night.
Darling has started the past six games while Crawford has been recovering from an appendectomy.
In Chicago’s last four games, Darling has allowed just three goals on 116 shots while helping the Blackhawks go 3-0-1.
“I’ve found a new comfort level. You just get into a rhythm where you’re not as nervous,” said the 27-year-old American, who upped his record to 7-2-2 this season.
“You can just relax and have fun out there. Last year was my first full year. I was still nervous about my role, my position within the organization. Coming back now, I’m not one of the new guys.”
The Rangers had some chances in the final minutes, but Darling stopped Mats Zuccarello’s slap shot with about three minutes to go, then blocked a tip-in attempt by Jimmy Vesey seconds later.
“The guys did a good job of keeping a lot of it from the outside,” Darling said. “They had their chances and so did we. It was a fun game.”
Trevor van Riemsdyk also scored for Chicago, while Artemi Panarin had two assists.
The win was sweet revenge for the Blackhawks, who were blanked 1-0 at home by the Rangers last Friday.
Jesper Fast scored for New York and Antti Raanta, starting for the fourth straight game, made 24 saves.
Raanta had won three consecutive starts, including shutouts in the last two. New York had won four of its last five.
“I think it was pretty much the same deal as it was Friday night in Chicago,” Raanta said.
“Two teams, both have good offenses and both love to play with pace. They got a couple odd-man rushes there; they got two goals from those and we didn’t capitalize on our chances. A 2-1 loss is not a great way to finish a game when it’s so close.”
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was activated from the injured reserve list earlier in the day after missing nine games with an upper-body injury.
Anisimov put Chicago ahead for good with 1:09 left in the second, taking a centering pass from Brian Campbell and firing a wrist shot past Raanta for his 13th goal.
“I just play my game, go hard to the net,” said Anisimov, who was drafted by the Rangers in the second round in 2006 and spent parts of four seasons i n New York from 2008-12.
“New York was my first team in the NHL, so it’s a special feeling to score here.”
After a scoreless first period, Chicago went in front at 5:18 of the second when van Riemsdyk took a pass from Panarin and wristed it past Raanta for his first of the season. It ended Raanta’s shutout streak of 176 minutes.
The Rangers tied it less than three minutes later when Fast, standing at the left side of the net, batted the puck out of the air for his third of the season.
Vesey had a chance for the Rangers on a rush minutes before Chicago’s goal, but Darling made a nice pad save on his attempt.
“Scott made some key saves as the game went on,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He was very solid.”
Stephen Curry dribbles around New Orleans forward Anthony Davis in the second half of Tuesday’s game in New Orleans.
New York Rangers forward J.T. Miller crashes into Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling during the third period of Tuesday’s game at Madison Square Garden. The Blackhawks won 2-1.