The Chicago Blackhawks were the hottest team in the NHL coming into tonight’s matchup with the New York Islanders, riding an eight game winning streak. The Islanders entered the game on the heels of a three game losing streak, after winning 13 of 15. It was the Islanders, however, who came out on top tonight as they defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 in regulation. The win puts the Islanders (20-10-0) in second place in the Metropolitan Division, two points back from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
For the first period and a half, the game was fast but defensive. Neither team relinquished a goal in the first period. Daniel Carcillo broke the 0-0 tie with a roller off of the back of Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak to make it 1-0 Chicago. A mere six seconds later, Cal Clutterbuck broke up a D to D pass from Duncan Keith to put one past Hawks goalie Scott Darling to make it 1-1. Heading into the third period with a tie score, the Islanders began to carry play. On an extended O-Zone possession, Islanders F Mikhail Grabovski had a costly turnover which found its way to Patrick Kane, who dazzled a backhander through the smallest of openings over Halak’s shoulder to make it 2-1 Hawks.
The Islanders got a gift of a call on a high stick by Kris Versteeg which lead to the equalizing goal by a slumping Kyle Okposo to tie the game in the third. 51 short seconds later, D Lubomir Visnovsky carried the puck into the Chicago zone, deked out a defender, and wristed one high past Darling to give the Isles a lead they would not relinquish. The Isles ended their losing streak and sealed up the win.
This was perhaps the best game the Islanders have played yet this year. Still down three starters (Travis Hamonic, Johnny Boychuk, Casey Cizikas), Coach Jack Capuano elected to play F Josh Bailey over F Eric Boulton, and D Griffin Reinhart over D Brian Strait (this was met with much rejoicing by Isles Twitter). Reinhart played with purpose tonight, and Bailey had a solid effort as well. Overall a very solid effort by a team who had been showing signs of slowing down as of late.
The Islanders play again Monday at home against the New Jersey Devils.