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'Trip' almost gets off to a great start
An old sayingthe first game of a road trip is your last game at homewas making the rounds in the Blackhawks' locker room before Sunday night's game against the Rangers. If that's true, the next two weeks will be quite a ride for the Hawks.
On the eve of a two-week, six-game western road swing that starts Tuesday in Edmonton, the Hawks peppered New York Rangers goalie Mike Dunham with 41 shots and came away with a hard-fought 2-2 tie at the United Center.
The Hawks enjoyed a 2-1 lead midway through the third period, but the Rangers evened the score when former Hawks winger Chris Simon fired a turnaround shot past Michael Leighton at the 10-minute-18-second mark.
"It was an exciting game to play in," Blackhawks coach Brian Sutter said. "You had to be alert and sharp every second you were on the ice. Dunham played a heck of a game, and he had to play a heck of a game."
Rookie Brett McLean put the Hawks ahead 2-1 at 5:05 of the third period with a pretty goal on a breakaway off a nice feed from Steve Sullivan. McLean gathered the puck, skated in from past center ice, deked Dunham and scored his fifth goal on a low shot inside the post.
"[Sullivan] can turn the puck up so fast, and fortunately both of their [defensemen] got caught and I was able to break in pretty much from the red line in," McLean said.
The Rangers had 34 shots, but it wasn't Leighton who made the biggest save of the night.
Midway through the third period, Mark Messier found himself all alone with the puck and an open Hawks net. Messier calmly corraled the puck, and as he finally shot, Hawks defenseman Steve Poapst reached out with his stick and deflected the shot high and right of the net.
"[Messier] held on to it too long and [Poapst] had a game-saver right there," Leighton said.
"I just threw my stick in front and got lucky," Poapst said. "I was really surprised he took so long. It allowed me a couple of seconds to at least get over there and get my stick in front of it, and it worked out to be lucky."
Kyle Calder got the Hawks going with his sixth goal of the season at 17:37 of the first period. Tyler Arnason won a faceoff and passed to Bryan Berard, who fired a shot that Calder tipped past Dunham.
The Hawks controlled play throughout the second period, but the Rangers made the most of the period. After Bobby Holik was sent off for four minutes for interference and an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty, the Hawks pressured Dunham but couldn't score. Then at 18:02 Messier picked up a loose puck after Berard was stripped and broke in alone on Leighton.
"I was actually pretty calm, surprisingly," Leighton said.
But Messier buried a low shot to tie the score 1-1.
McLean's goal made it 2-1.The Hawks controlled play in overtime, firing eight shots, but Dunham kept the Hawks from another point.
"I think we deserved better," Leighton said. "Our guys played unbelievable."