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Holden Provides Spark In OT As Rangers Beat Hawks, 1-0

The Philadelphia Inquirer

In an oh-so-tight battle of the backup goaltenders, it came down to one shot.

Defenseman Nick Holden beat Chicago goalie Scott Darling at 55 seconds of overtime as the Rangers edged the Blackhawks, 1-0, Friday night and Antti Raanta, with 26 saves, earned the shutout.

Raanta, the former Blackhawk who was traded in June 2015, was given the rare back-to-back start over struggling Henrik Lundqvist. The move worked as well as could be imagined as the Rangers concluded their two-game trip to frosty Winnipeg and Chicago with four points.

It was a nail-biter through regulation. With 2:13 left, a puck slid through Raanta's legs at the left post, but was scooped out of the crease by Mats Zuccarello.

"I think everybody knows that Hank's the guy, but at this time, Antti's game is just a little better than Hank's," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said before the game. "We need to win hockey games, and Antti played real well (Thursday) and he wasn't that busy. This is a familiar spot for him, so we just felt it was the right thing to do. I've got to think he'll be highly motivated."

Marian Hossa appeared to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead at the six-minute mark of the third period when his shot from the high slot went through Raanta's pads. But Vigneault challenged the call, arguing that Hossa was offside. A video review agreed, and overturned the call.

In addition to the goalie situation, each team was missing significant players. For the Rangers, Rick Nash (groin), Mika Zibanejad (broken leg), Pavel Buchnevich (back) and Matt Puempel (concussion) were out. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and defenseman Brent Seabrook were injured as well.

The scoreless second continued in the defensive style of the first, with a late flurry of saves from each goaltender.

It was fairly quiet until Raanta stopped Patrick Kane point blank from just below the right circle with 11:55 left, and then Kane's highstick on J.T. Miller in a chase to the end boards at 8:07 gave the Rangers their second power play.

Holden's shot was stopped by Darling with 28 seconds left on the penalty, and when it ended, Raanta made a blocker save on Richard Panik through traffic.

In the two best Rangers chances, Darling stopped Derek Stepan at the right post, then a shift later, Jesper Fast at the left post with his left pad.

When Jimmy Vesey went off on a high stick with 2:32 left, the Hawks were denied on their first power play. By the end of 40 minutes, Darling had made 23 saves, Raanta 19.

Raanta, who was in familiar surroundings, was tested early after the puck dropped. At the 32-second mark, he had to make a quick kick save on Hossa in front, who had received an inadvertent tape-to-tape pass in front from Zuccarello along the boards.

At 1:26, former Ranger Michal Rozsival was whistled for roughing, but the Rangers managed no shots on Darling, starting his fifth straight game with No.1 goaltender Corey Crawford sidelined after an appendectomy. After two power-play goals in Winnipeg, the Rangers couldn't get set up in the offensive zone with the man-advantage.

After Michael Grabner's turnover in the neutral zone, Raanta then was forced to make a sprawling right-to-left save on Kane, who was fed by Artemi Panarin, from 15 feet away at 5:10, and then stopped a longer shot from Kane less than two minutes later.

By the halfway point of the period, the Rangers clearly looked like the team who had played the night before and traveled here while the Hawks rested. After Miller blocked a shot and was limping, the Hawks pinned the chasing Blueshirts in their zone. At the end of 20 minutes, the Rangers had outshot the Hawks 12-9, but the home side had far better scoring opportunities that were foiled by Raanta.

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