NEW YORK—Before their game Sunday, the Blackhawks stressed the need for a good start against a New York Rangers team that had lost the day before and had watched one of its leaders, Brendan Shanahan, wheeled off the ice on a stretcher.
Instead the Hawks were on their heels from the opening faceoff and were lucky to get out of the period down only two goals. But for a team that rarely scores, a two-goal deficit is tough to overcome.
Predictably, the Hawks dropped their third in a row, losing 2-1.
"We played pretty poor the first 20 minutes, and that's what decided the game," Hawks winger Martin Havlat said. "We weren't skating at all. We were playing like we were still sleeping."
Not sleeping was the New York line of Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka and Marcel Hossa, who dominated the Hawks and ended up scoring both goals. Straka scored on a power play 1 minute 42 seconds into the game, and Hossa followed at 11:40.
It could have been much worse. Straka alone could have had a hat trick were it not for Hawks goaltender Patrick Lalime, who made a pair of stellar stops on Straka, first with the glove and then with the toe of his skate.
"They had some pretty good chances," Lalime said. "[The Rangers] came out hard, especially the Jagr line. They're pretty strong on the puck and can create some good chances."
Jagr picked up his 51st assist of the season on Straka's goal, making a perfect feed across the goalmouth and giving Lalime no chance. Hossa finished off a long shift by sliding into open space in the slot and banging in a pass from Matt Cullen.
"It's pretty tough when Jagr has the puck a lot," Hawks coach Denis Savard said. "He's tough to defend. That's what happened in the first period. We turned the puck over too many times and gave them momentum."
It looked as if Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist would have an easy time until Havlat banged a shot off his leg from behind the goal line late in the second period. The goal was Havlat's 23rd of the season as he once again provided the only offense for the Hawks.
"It's not about one guy," Havlat said. "I'm just trying to do my best like everyone else."
The Hawks dressed seven defensemen, and Savard double-shifted Havlat most of the game. Havlat ended up playing a game-high 24:45, rare for a forward. But even sending Havlat out every other shift resulted in just 22 shots on goal from the Hawks.
"We didn't go to the net hard enough," Savard said. "We had enough chances. We just didn't create enough. We didn't keep the puck in the zone enough."
Jassen Cullimore was back in the lineup for just the second time in the last eight games, but he had to leave 74 seconds into the third period after taking a shot off the hand. Cullimore went for X-rays and didn't return. His status is unknown. The Hawks will put Karl Stewart back on injured reserve with the same knee injury that sidelined him earlier in the year. Duncan Keith missed the final three minutes with a skate problem. Keith said his skate might have hit concrete on the notoriously bad Madison Square Garden surface. Sunday was the first time since signing with the Hawks that Nikolai Khabibulin didn't play in back-to-back games while healthy. Shanahan made an appearance in the Rangers' dressing room before the game after nearly being knocked cold in Saturday's game against the Flyers. Shanahan collided with Philadelphia's Mike Knuble as the two were looking the other way in the third period. Shanahan suffered a concussion. The Hawks had just one power play on the day, a season low.