NEW YORK — After a rough stretch, the New York Rangers are playing their best hockey in nearly two months.
Chris Kreider had a goal and an assist, Henrik Lundqvist moved into a tie for sixth place on the NHL’s career wins list and the Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 Thursday night for their third victory in four games.
The Rangers won nine of 11 to move to 12-8-2 heading into Thanksgiving, but then followed that with just five wins in 21 games (5-11-5). Now, coming off a 6-2 win over Carolina on Tuesday night, New York has consecutive wins for only the second time since a three-game streak Nov. 17-21.
“I think guys are just sick of losing,” coach David Quinn said. “Sometimes you employ your will in those situations and just make sure you do everything you can under your control to make sure that you get your job done and do your part. … I think we’ve done a better job of that over the last few games.”
“We’re skating with confidence,” Zibanejad said, “just demanding the puck, all three of us. Just holding onto pucks and making the right plays, not overthinking things.”
Lundqvist stopped 24 shots to tie Terry Sawchuk with 445 wins, nine behind Curtis Joseph for fifth place.
“It’s an honour to be up there, getting closer and closer to and already passing names that meant a lot to me growing up,” Lundqvist said. “It’s a very cool feeling.”
Brandon Saad, Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kahun scored for Chicago, which has lost five straight (0-3-2) and seven of eight. Collin Delia, making his eighth start of the season, finished with 29 saves.
“We just have to stop giving them chances off our mistakes,” DeBrincat said. “Teams capitalize on that and we’ve just got to play, battle a full 60 minutes and not give up those Grade-A chances.”
DeBrincat pulled the Blackhawks to 3-2 with his 24th goal on a one-timer off a pass from Eric Gustafsson at 1:40 of the third period. It was Chicago’s second power-play goal of the night and ninth during a seven-game streak with at least one.
Delia, 0-2-3 in his last five starts, made a stellar save on Jimmy Vesey in front about six minutes later, and corralled an attempt by Zuccarello from the left circle with 7:40 left to keep Chicago within one.
New York went on its first power play of the game less than 30 seconds later and managed six shots on goal during the advantage, but Delia stopped them all.
Zibanejad scored an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining to give the Rangers a two-goal lead. Kahun beat Lundqvist from between the circles with 1.5 seconds left for the final margin.
With the Rangers leading 2-1 after one period, Zibanejad appeared to push the lead to two a little more than seven minutes into the second, but his goal was overturned after a coach’s challenge for offside.
Kreider put New York up 3-1 on his 22nd with 6:51 left in the middle period after Zuccarello’s centring pass for Brady Skjei was deflected by Chicago defenceman Duncan Keith.
Saad got the Blackhawks on the scoreboard first with a power-play goal 5:41 into the game, putting in a rebound of Artem Anisimov’s deflection off a post for his 14th.
Chytil tied it with 6:40 left in the first as he picked up a loose puck in the defensive zone, skated up the right side, sped around fellow 19-year-old Henri Jokiharju, skated in on Delia and fired the puck into the top right corner for his eighth.
The Rangers went ahead a little more than four minutes later when Zuccarello knocked in a deflection off a post by Kreider with 2:22 left in the period. It was Zuccarello’s eighth goal of the season, and fourth in the last four games.
“We had a couple of letdowns, mental errors,” Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I thought we played really well at the beginning of the game, scored the first goal and things are going well. And then we end up down 2-1. Again, we’re playing uphill after that.”
NOTES: Patrick Kane had an assist on DeBrincat’s goal, extending his point streak to seven games (10 assists, 15 points). It was his 554th career assist, tying Doug Wilson for third place in franchise history. Stan Mikita leads with 926 and Denis Savard is second with 719. … Rangers forward Kevin Hayes missed his eighth straight game due to an upper-body injury. … Zuccarello, who had a career-high three assists in New York’s 6-2 win against Carolina on Tuesday night, extended his point streak to four games.
Blackhawks: Host the Washington Capitals on Sunday to open a two-game homestand before the All-Star Game.
Rangers: At the Boston Bruins on Saturday night in their final game before the All-Star break.