By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Chicago Blackhawks scored four first-period goals on their way to a 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday to snap a nine-game losing streak and get back on track in the chase for an NHL playoff berth.
Chicago improved to 30-21-7, while the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers dropped to 37-14-5 as New York's four-game winning streak came to an end.
New York gave ace goalie Henrik Lundqvist a night off after his 42-shot shutout over Boston on Tuesday, and Martin Biron was unable to improve on his 10-2-1 record as the Swede's backup.
The Blackhawks had notched six straight losses on their current road trip but erupted with a furious first-period assault launched by a penalty shot goal from Jonathan Toews after barely one minute of play.
Chicago was awarded the penalty after Dan Girardi covered up a loose rebound off a Toews blast that trickled in front of the net.
One minute later Marian Hossa made a perfect cross to Nick Leddy, who one-timed it past Biron to make it 2-0.
The Blackhawks kept up their frenetic pace when Toews hit Patrick Sharp two minutes later for a breakaway chance that the right-winger cashed in for a 3-0 bulge.
Hossa then took his turn on a breakaway, beating Biron for Chicago's fourth goal from seven shots for a 4-0 lead with less than 10 minutes played.
The Rangers got on the board in the second period on Marc Staal's first goal of the season and pulled within 4-2 on Ryan McDonagh's deflection with 4:45 left in the game.
Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford saved 24 shots on goal and turned away seven New York power plays.
The Eastern Conference-leading Rangers dropped to 37-14-5 and remained one point behind the Western-leading Detroit Red Wings for most points in the league.
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Ian Ransom)