CHICAGO (AP) — Nick Schmaltz waited and waited until he saw an opening.
The Chicago Blackhawks are making all the right moves right now.
Schmaltz set up Alexandre Fortin’s tiebreaking goal in the second period, and the surprising Blackhawks beat the New York Rangers 4-1 on Thursday night.
“It was good to see a play like that connect,” Schmaltz said. “Hopefully we can keep helping the team offensively.”
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews also scored as Chicago (6-2-2) won for the third time in four games. Alex DeBrincat had a goal and an assist, and Corey Crawford made 18 saves in his fourth game after suffering a concussion last year.
The Blackhawks’ solid start comes in the wake of their last-place finish last season, missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
“A lot of good hockey players on our team. Proud guys,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Wanted to get back to doing what we want to do, and that’s play in the playoffs.”
New York (3-6-1) managed just one shot on goal in the third period of its third loss in four games. Pavel Buchnevich scored in the opener of a four-game trip, and Henrik Lundqvist made 33 stops.
“That was really probably as poorly as we’ve played all year,” coach David Quinn said. “We’ve done a good job of skating and competing, but that certainly wasn’t the case tonight.”
The Rangers also lost defenseman Adam McQuaid to an unspecified injury in the first period. Asked for an update on McQuaid, Quinn said it was too early to tell and he hadn’t talked to the training staff yet.
The game was tied at 1 when Schmaltz circled around the offensive zone before taking the puck to the net and threading a pass through the goalmouth to Fortin for a tap-in 10:33 into the period. It was Schmaltz’s sixth assist of the season, tied for the team lead.
“Once I saw his stick there all alone it was kind of an easy, no-brainer pass there,” Schmaltz said.
The Blackhawks put it away when Kane knocked one off the post before slamming it home for his team-best ninth goal 15:39 into the third. DeBrincat added an empty-netter with 1:09 left.
“I think we got what we deserved tonight,” New York forward Chris Kreider said. “We really didn’t give ourselves a chance to win.”
Chicago jumped in front on Toews’ 298th career goal, matching Dennis Hull for sixth on the franchise list.
Toews went in all alone on Lundqvist after McQuaid and fellow New York defensemen Brady Skjei got tangled up near the blue line and fell down. The captain then slipped a shot under Lundqvist’s legs for his sixth of the season 2:55 into the game.
Buchnevich responded for the Rangers, tying it with a hard wrist shot on a rebound at 4:09. It was Buchnevich’s third of the year.
NOTES: Rangers F Matt Beleskey was assigned to Hartford of the American Hockey League after clearing waivers. Beleskey has appeared in just one game with New York since he was acquired in the February trade that sent Rick Nash to Boston. … Scott Foster is going to help the Blackhawks at some optional morning skates after his memorable appearance as an emergency goaltender last season. The 36-year-old Foster, an accountant who played college hockey for Western Michigan, was pressed into action March 29 against Winnipeg and stopped all seven shots he faced over the final 14 minutes of the Blackhawks’ 6-2 victory. … D Brent Seabrook played in his 1,014th regular-season game with the Blackhawks, snapping a tie with Eric Nesterenko for third on the franchise list. Hall of Fame forwards Stan Mikita (1,394) and Bobby Hull (1,036) hold the top two spots.
Rangers: Visit the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.
Blackhawks: Visit the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.