For the second consecutive contest the Chicago Blackhawks got the desired performance. This time they also got the desired result.
Joakim Nordstrom scored the first goal of his NHL career, and Michal Handzus’ second-period goal proved to be the game winner in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders at the United Center on Friday night. The Blackhawks were coming off a good game but disappointing ending against St. Louis on Wednesday, when they got zero points. They didn’t repeat that tonight.
“I think we’ve played some pretty good hockey in the first four games. It’s just a matter of bearing down in a few situations that we know we could be better in, and it’s cost us some points,” said Duncan Keith, who had two assists tonight. “It’s nice that we were able to finish it out and play tight defense the whole way, not have one play that cost us some points.”
Well, there was one lapse in there, but it was just at the end of the first period. The Blackhawks dominated the first, at least the first 19 minutes of it. Nordstrom scored off a threaded pass by fellow Swede Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Jonathan Toews connected when a Keith shot ricocheted off the backboard and right to him for a 2-0 Blackhawks lead. But in the first’s final minute, the Islanders erased all of that. Josh Bailey scored on a delayed penalty with 55 seconds remaining in the period and Kyle Okposo delivered with five seconds remaining.
“You want to be out there in the last minute and not get scored on. That was the message out of St. Louis. First periods you don’t want to be out there with goals against either,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It certainly got our attention.”
This time the Blackhawks had time to respond. Handzus did that less than seven minutes into the second, when he cleaned up on a Keith rebound in front for the 3-2 lead. The Islanders had a close shot or two in the final seconds but couldn’t find the equalizer.
“We can’t be frustrated. We just have to play our game,” Handzus said. “I thought played pretty well. They’re a fast team and you have to check well against them.”
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The Blackhawks also had a better night on their penalty kill, nullifying both of the Islanders’ attempts. It’s the first game this season they haven’t allowed a power-play goal.
“Better,” Quenneville said. “We got away with zero night on it tonight. We’ll take baby steps. We’re progressing there.”
The Blackhawks know how to win late. They were masters of it last season. They were reminded how to do it again tonight.
“Tonight could be one of those nights where you maybe fall into that trend where you start squeezing the stick a little bit too hard late in the game when you’re only up one goal. But I think we just maintained our composure,” Toews said. “We know what we have to do to protect those leads and to play smart late in games. I think we’ve improved on that.”