The Blackhawks were in the perfect venue to show the hockey world what they're made of this season.
They kicked off their 2008-09 campaign Friday night on one of the biggest stages in hockey, Madison Square Garden, but couldn't overcome the bright lights of the big city as they fell 4-2 to the Rangers before a crowd of 18,200.
"We came out to play hard [but] it's simple, we didn't do the things we had to do to win," Hawks center Jonathan Toews said. "At some point they kind of overwhelmed us. It's tough to come out in the first game of the year on the road in this building."
The Rangers, who improved to 3-0, got a goal and two assists from Brandon Dubinsky, but it was Nikolai Zherdev's third-period score 2 minutes 20 seconds after the Hawks had trimmed a 3-1 deficit on a Duncan Keith goal that did the most damage.
"It's really frustrating," Keith said. "It's your first game and you want to come out with a bang. I think they kind of took it to us. Overall, we just had play that was too sloppy and too many turnovers with the puck. Usually when you do that it's not going to be a good outcome."
The Hawks outshot the Rangers 32-29 and it was missed opportunities that coach Denis Savard was lamenting afterward.
"We had  shots and probably missed the net 10 or a dozen times—good chances where we could have buried some of them," Savard said. "It gives you 40 or 42 shots with quality chances and that should be good enough to win."
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead on Wade Redden's goal at the 6:47 mark of the first period. Goaltender Cristobal Huet, making his Hawks debut, kicked the initial shot to the right of the goal and Redden pounced.
The Hawks got their first "wow" moment from $56.8 million man Brian Campbell at 17:18 to tie it 1-1. The defenseman, who signed an eight-year free agent deal in July, skated the length of the ice with the puck, cut behind the net and banked a pass off the base of the goal to Patrick Kane who fired a one-timer past goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Aaron Voros and Brandon Dubinsky scored in the second period to give New York a 3-1 lead heading into the third. But the Hawks regained momentum when Dustin Byfuglien sent a pass to Keith in the slot and the defenseman deflected it past Lundqvist to cut the margin to 3-2 at 7:13.
Zherdev's goal on a broken play in the neutral zone then ended the Hawks' threat.
"Obviously, that's not the end result we wanted," said Huet, who signed a four-year free agent deal in July. "It's disappointing to lose the first game. We made some mistakes. Myself, I didn't help the team at the moment the team needed me.
"It's a tough place to play. We could have won, but we didn't and we have to learn from that."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun