By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Chicago Blackhawks brought their miserable nine-game losing streak to an end with a 4-2 win over the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers on Thursday.
The Blackhawks, Stanley Cup champions in 2010, scored four first-period goals on their way to victory to get back on track in the chase for an NHL playoff berth.
Chicago improved to 30-21-7, while the Rangers dropped to 37-14-5 after their four-game winning streak came to an end.
"It was a great start and obviously a huge win for us," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. "We haven't had too many regular season wins that felt as good as that."
New York gave ace goalie Henrik Lundqvist a night off after his 42-shot shutout win over Boston on Tuesday, and Martin Biron was unable to improve on his 10-2-1 record as backup.
The Blackhawks got off the mark a minute into the game with a penalty-shot goal from Jonathan Toews after Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi had covered up a loose puck in the crease.
A minute later Marian Hossa made a perfect pass to Nick Leddy, who one-timed the puck past Biron to make it 2-0.
The Blackhawks kept up the frenetic pace when Toews found Patrick Sharp two minutes later on the breakaway and the right-winger cashed in for a 3-0 lead.
Hossa then took his turn on a breakaway, beating Biron 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 to 4-2 on Carl Hagelin's deflection off a Ryan McDonagh shot late in the third.
"We had an awful start, but I thought we battled back and played a couple of good periods," said Rangers coach John Tortorella.
Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford saved 24 shots on goal and turned away seven New York power plays.
"It's a really big win, but this game only means anything if we go into the next game playing even better," Toews said. "We've got to build off this confidence. This skid has created a big hole that we have to dig our way out of."
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Ian Ransom/Peter Rutherford)