Patrick Sharp celebrates his first-period goal in the Hawks' 4-2 victory over the Rangers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. (Adam Hunger/Reuters photo)

Brake time: Hawks stop skid at 9

Fri, 02-17-2012
By: Chris Kuc

NEW YORK — Music blared and smiles were flashed in the Blackhawks' dressing room after a game for the first time in nearly a month.

The Hawks' long North American nightmare ended Thursday night as they snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

The triumph, which came courtesy of a four-goal explosion during the first 9 minutes, 38 seconds after the opening puck drop, ended the Hawks' longest skid since the 2006-07 season and improved their record on their nine-game trip to 1-6-1. It was the Hawks' first victory since Jan. 20 and kept them in sixth place in the Western Conference standings, within five points of the idle fifth-place Predators.

Having not gotten many breaks in the first eight games of the season-long journey that has taken them across Western Canada and much of the United States, the Hawks got one early when the Rangers' Dan Girardi covered the puck with his hand while it was in the crease

Jonathan Toews was awarded a penalty shot and the Hawks' captain beat Rangers backup goaltender Martin Biron between the pads at the 1:05 mark to send his team off to the races.

"I tried not to think about it in the moment but it's a huge situation for us where we've come out of a couple of games we've played really well and just couldn't score," said Toews, who snapped an eight-game goalless slide. "If I don't score on that one … the feeling on the bench and maybe to myself would be, 'What do we have to do to score or get things going.'

"It was nice to get that one on the first shift and we followed up with four or five big shifts after that. We're confident we can score goals and we have to keep that attitude going."

After Toews' spark, Nick Leddy, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa reeled off consecutive goals against Biron to put the Hawks safely in front. From there, strong defensive play — in particular a penalty-killing unit that denied the Rangers seven times — took over.

"Our PK was outstanding and probably the biggest area that got us the win," coach Joel Quenneville said. "They did a good job being in the right areas and lanes and denying some shots. They were also tight around our net."

Corey Crawford was the recipient of the early offensive onslaught and ended a personal five-game losing streak after limiting the Rangers' scores to Marc Staal and Carl Hagelin.

"Everyone feels good about how well we played," Crawford said. "It seemed like everyone was going hard, playing the right way and making the right plays. We got the puck out of the zone when we needed to and our top guys came out flying and scored at the right times at the beginning."

With one game remaining on the trip — Saturday in Columbus against the last-place Blue Jackets — the Hawks realize Thursday's victory can be considered a turnaround only if they do it again.

"We need to use it, build off it, and not just expect each other to keep playing that way," Toews said. "We have to work for it. We're not going to just keep winning automatically now."