CHICAGO -- The Rangers never got a chance to challenge the Chicago Blackhawks in last season's Stanley Cup Final, having been eliminated by Tampa Bay in seven games a week earlier.
But after the Hawks raised their third championship banner in six years at United Center on Wednesday, the Blueshirts got off on the right foot this season, building a two-goal lead in the first period and hanging on for the next 40 minutes for a 3-2 win.
On the first night of the NHL season, Henrik Lundqvist stymied the Hawks in the third period, finishing with 32 saves.
With 1:19 left, the Hawks pulled Corey Crawford and Jonathan Toews poked the puck into the net under Lundqvist's pad with a minute left, but it was waved off, and a review was inconclusive.
With the Blueshirts ahead 3-1 in the second period, Dan Girardi's turnover along the right wall allowed a tick-tack-toe pass to Teuvo Teravainen, and the Hawks closed to 3-2 at 6:55. But the Rangers kept the Hawks at bay for the remaining 13 minutes. They were a step behind all period, as the Hawks controlled the puck, and after 40 minutes the shots were 20-20.
The Rangers' best chance to restore the two-goal lead came with 4:15 left when Derek Stepan found Chris Kreider in the slot, but he fired high and wide. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville shortened his bench in the third, going with 10 forwards, and steady forechecking continued.
The Rangers had sailed out of the gates quickly after the long banner-raising ceremony. Rookie Oscar Lindberg, centering the third line, rifled in his first NHL goal 1:43 into the game, off passes from Viktor Stalberg and J.T. Miller. With Mats Zuccarello in the box for holding at 6:19, Lundqvist kept the Hawks, who pinned in the first penalty-kill unit for 1:25, from tying the game. He made several saves, including a beauty on a high shot from former Ranger Artem Anisimov.
The Hawks answered when Dan Boyle and Marc Staal got crossed up on a developing rush, and Toews fed Artemi Panarin alone in front, and the rookie beat Lundqvist to his glove side at 14:24.
But the Rangers' speed created two goals in 2:23. Kevin Klein ripped a one-timer from below the left dot on a setup from Keith Yandle at the point for a 2-1 lead. Miller notched his second assist of the night. Then with 59 seconds left in the first, Kevin Hayes missed the net on a pass from Kreider on an odd-man rush, but recovered behind the goal line and flipped the puck in front, where Stepan was alone in the crease that Corey Crawford vacated for a 3-1 lead.