By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks gave up an early 2-0 lead in the last minute of the first period but rebounded to defeat the New York Islanders 3-2 at the United Center Friday night. Michal Handzus provided the winning margin with his first goal of the season. Also chipping in was rookie Joakim Nordstrom, who netted his first career goal in the win.
First Period: Nick Leddy got to the net and got off a shot in the second minute that goalie Kevin Poulin knocked away. A few minutes later, Patrick Sharp found Marian Hossa up the left side for another shot on Poulin. Early in the seventh minute, Brandon Bollig nearly pulled off a spin-o-rama from the left post. Poulin gloved the attempt after knocking it into the air with his blocker.
On the next shift, Jonathan Toews put a wraparound attempt in front of the net. Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane took hacks at the loose puck but couldn’t finish the play. Brent Seabrook turned the puck over to John Tavares while trying to hit Marcus Kruger with a pass for the first real scoring chance for the Islanders. Nicolai Khabibulin made the stop to negate the turnover.
The Hawks got on the boards with the first career goal for Joakim Nordstrom, set up by fellow Swede Niklas Hjalmarsson. Hjalmarsson brought the puck behind the Islanders net, waited for his chance and slid a pass across the front of the net and to the rookie center. Nordstrom’s shot beat Poulin and went in off the left post at the 9:32 mark to put Chicago up 1-0.
In the 14th minute, Khabibulin misplayed the puck behind his net and escaped unscathed with New York failed to capitalize on an open net. Michael Grabner missed a wide open shot and the Islanders still could have scored when Khabibulin lost track of the puck.
Toews found the net with 3:55 left after getting hold of Duncan Keith’s one-timer off the end boards. Shooting from a tough angle deep in the left corner, Toews sent a slap shot past Poulin to give the Hawks a 2-0 advantage.
New York got a late goal off what seemed like a pending scoring opportunity for the Hawks. Keith stole a pass and centered the puck to Toews. The pass didn’t connect and the captain made contact with Poulin. While on the delayed penalty, Grabner brought the puck all the way up the ice and hit Josh Bailey in front of the net, who beat Khabibulin at 19:05 to make the score 2-1.
Fifty seconds later, Chicago gave up the equalizer after Tavares beat Hjalmarsson to a loose puck to the left of the Hawks net. Tavares brought the puck around the goal and fed Kyle Okposo, who finished the play with a backhander into the net. The goal came with less than five ticks left on the clock and sent the teams into the locker room even 2-2 despite Chicago controlling play throughout.
Second Period: Joel Quenneville brought up Brandon Saad to the top line for Bickell and that unit put together a dominant shift in the fourth minute. Chicago had several opportunities that didn’t quite get in after the Hawks held the puck in the offensive zone for nearly a minute.
Handzus gave Chicago the lead at the 6:45 mark after putting a shot on goal that Poulin failed to control. Keith sent a slap shot from the point that came off Poulin and into the crease. Bolling and Handzus were waiting, with Handzus sending the puck into the net to make it 3-2 Hawks.
Hjlalmarsson sent a puck over the glass in the Chicago zone to provide the Islanders with the game’s first power play. Khabibulin stopped several shots before Okposo was called for cross-checking at the 11:01 mark. Chicago got some power play time 24 seconds later. Toews got a shot on goal late in the going, but the Hawks failed to increase their advantage.
Chicago got a second power play chance with 6:20 to play in the middle frame when Matt Donovan hooked Kruger. Chicago kept the Islanders PK unit out for nearly the full two minutes but came up empty.
Leddy found Saad in front of the net but Saad couldn’t connect on the one-timer in the 18th minute. The Islanders made another late bid for a goal in the final minute but Khabibulin turned away the late rush and the Hawks entered the second intermission up 3-2.
Third Period: Chicago had an early chance in the second minute after Sharp swiped a pass and set up a Hossa shot from close range. Poulin made the stop, however. Kane started an odd man rush from his own zone with a steal and dish to Saad. Kane came up the middle for the shot, but Poulin handled the attempt.
Chicago went on the power play 6:02 into the period when Saad was tripped by Travis Hamonic but couldn’t convert. Tavares had a chance coming around the Hawks net but was denied by Khabibulin.
With 8:50 remaining, Shaw was sent to the box for a tripping infraction against Lubomir Visnovsky. Midway through the penalty, Handzus and Matt Moulson got tangled up with each other coming off the ice. Both were sent off for roughing and the Hawks killed the penalty without further incident.
As the game neared completion, Chicago continued to pressure Poulin but the young goalie kept his team just a goal back. With 3:03 left, Frans Nielsen hooked Hossa in front of the net to prevent an open shot and the Hawks had a chance to put New York away. The Islanders held firm and entered the final minute looking to tie the score.
Poulin went to the bench and New York got a deflection toward the net in the waning seconds. The puck was wide right, however, and Chicago picked up two points in regulation for the second time this season.
-The games three stars: Okposo (third), Keith (second), Toews (first).
-Nordstrom’s goal was set up by a great play by Hjalmarsson. Kudos to the rookie, who ended the game in the middle of the third line, for his first goal. This was easily Nordstrom’s best performance of the young season.
-That said, Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya had a hand in Tavares having the room to find Okposo for the late goal at the end of the first period.
-Tavares has played 211 straight games, so it isn’t surprising that he pulled out a loose tooth on the Islander bench and got back into action in the second period.
-Ben Smith spent just 6:17 on the ice, but had an assist and was a plus-two on the night. He got to a loose puck and started the sequence that resulted in Handzus second-period goal. Joel Quenneville shortened his bench but I thought the fourth line had a pretty solid night. They created several chances and would up potting the game-winning goal.
-Khabibulin was not a busy man tonight, but stopped 17 of 19 shots and did what he needs to do as the back-up. Namely, being solid if not spectacular while giving Corey Crawford a night off. Nice win for the Bulin Wall.
-Poulin, in his first start of the season, turned away a lot of shots in the last 33 minutes to keep his team in contention on a night where the Blackhawks really dominated the action.
-Thanks mostly to Toews (16-7) and Handzus (5-0), the Hawks bested New York at the dot 35-30. Kruger was perfect in four defensive zone draws, which had to aid in Chicago killing both of its penalties.
-Keith put in 24:02 on the blue line, but the minutes were pretty even among the remaining defensemen, none of whom logged 20 minutes.
-I was thinking that Eddie Olczyk must be doing a national game Friday until the nine-year old pointed out the Penn State-Army game on the Big Ten Network. He flipped that game on and there was Eddie O. being interviewed while taking in his son’s game.
-The Hawks try and make it a four-point weekend Saturday, hosting Buffalo.
Quenneville used Kruger and Shaw as centers on the second line starting midway through the first period. Handzus dropped to fourth-line duties while Nordstrom was used on the third line.
Bickell also was moved down to the third line with Saad moving to the first line.