UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The Blackhawks weren’t perfect during their eight-game win streak. There were nights when the energy wasn’t there. Periods when the forecheck was half-hearted. Stretches when the passing was a bit careless and sloppy.
But through it all, they kept winning, something Jonathan Toews said was the hallmark of a good team. But play with fire enough times, and you’re bound to get burned. The New York Islanders burned them on Saturday night, rallying in the third period for a 3-2 victory to snap the Hawks’ win streak at eight, the longest in the league this season.
“Some of those games we had, not no business winning, but they should have been closer, or we should have had to work harder for it,” winger Daniel Carcillo said. “But [it was] just one of those cases of them outworking us and putting pucks to the net and going to those hard areas. Seemed like we didn’t want to do it tonight.”
The Islanders outshot the Hawks 33-15 over the final two periods. They were relentless on the forecheck in the third period. And they just kept coming at Scott Darling, who almost singlehandedly kept the win streak alive, making 38 saves in all.
Finally, Kyle Okposo and Lubomir Visnovsky scored 51 seconds apart to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win. And even with the Hawks chasing the lead over the final nine minutes of the game, the Islanders never let up.
“It could have been worse; Scotty kept us in it,” Toews said. “He had some big saves throughout all three periods. We just didn’t work for pucks, we didn’t generate chances, we didn’t really make them do things they didn’t want to do, especially playing in their own zone. We didn’t really have any sustained pressure at any point of the game. And we didn’t check well enough.”
It was a stunning turn of events after it appeared Patrick Kane had given the cramped but colorful Nassau Coliseum something to remember him by, a brilliant roofed backhand over Jaroslav Halak’s shoulder at 3:46 of the third period — finding a hole that didn’t appear to exist.
But about five minutes later, Kris Versteeg’s stick bounced off another stick and caught John Tavares in the face. The Islanders tied it up on the ensuing power play, as former Hawks defenseman Nick Leddy made a nice play to hold the zone, leading to Okposo scoring off a Tavares rebound.
Less than a minute later, Lubomir Visnovsky waltzed into the offensive zone and rifled a shot past Darling for a 3-2 lead.
“He was great, gave us a chance all game long,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Darling, who has clearly become the No. 2 goalie ahead of Antti Raanta in Quenneville’s eyes during Corey Crawford’s absence. “Could have been a goalie win, but you’ve got to commend him on giving us a chance.”
It was a fitting game for two of the league’s speediest, most entertaining teams. After a fast-paced but fruitless 35 minutes, Daniel Carcillo and Cal Clutterbuck traded goals just six seconds apart late in the second period, Clutterbuck’s coming off a ghastly turnover by Duncan Keith.
“We didn’t get to enjoy either lead,” Quenneville lamented.
The Hawks had nobody to blame but themselves, though, as the Islanders beat the Hawks at their own game by turning it on in the third period.
“They definitely outworked us tonight,” Toews said. “We just have to find a way to get back on that page we were on a few games ago, where everyone’s going and everything’s clicking, and start getting results we want again. I think we got a little dose of what we probably deserve tonight.”