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Blackhawks sink Islanders

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- For two normally high-scoring teams to go more than half a game without scoring is a testament to great defense and goaltending on each side.

But in the end, Chicago's offense was just a bit better than New York's as the Blackhawks (2-1-1) handed the Islanders (also 2-1-1) their first loss of the season, a 3-2 setback on Friday night at the United Center.

Positioning himself perfectly in front of Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin, Blackhawks center Michal Handzus tapped in the winning goal off a rebound of Duncan Keith's slap shot from just inside the blue line at 6:45 of the second period, breaking a 2-2 tie.

"We had glimpses of playing well, but overall for 60 minutes we just had a hard time getting to our game, for whatever reason," Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. "If we could have played better, that game could have gone either way. It's just a little frustrating that we just didn't leave it out there."

Even with the loss, the Islanders are still 10-2-5 in their last 17 regular-season games dating to the end of the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign.

Still, battling back from a 2-0 deficit to tie and then failing to score again in the final 40:05 of play was disheartening to the Islanders.

"We just have to be a little hungrier," New York captain and center John Tavares said. "Obviously, they're a good team and you have to respect your opponent, but we have to play them a little harder. We got a couple big goals there to get us back into the game and we weren't able to sustain it. It just has to be a consistent effort."

Chicago scored first when Niklas Hjalmarsson slipped a pass through the crease to rookie Joakim Nordstrom, who pushed his first NHL career goal past the outstretched Poulin at 9:32 of the first period.

"(Nordstrom) had a heck of a game. He had the puck a lot," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "He made a lot of plays defensively that led to dangerous plays offensively, scored a goal, did a lot of good things. It's good to see him get that confidence and get comfortable with the puck."

A native of Sweden, Nordstrom was Chicago's third-round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He split last season between Sweden's AIK and the AHL's Rockford IceHogs, combining for 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 54 games.

"I was just excited to score," Nordstrom said. "I haven't scored too many goals in my professional career, and the first one here was just fun."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews added his second goal of the season at 16:05 of the first period to make it 2-0.

Things looked as if they would continue to go Chicago's way until the final minute of the first period when the Islanders scored twice in 50 seconds.

Josh Bailey's wrist shot with 55 seconds left sailed past Blackhawks backup goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, followed by Kyle Okposo's backhander with five seconds left.

"Giving up two goals in the last minute of the period, you're not happy," Quenneville said.

Now in his 18th NHL season and second career stint with the Blackhawks, Khabibulin, just three months shy of 41 years old, made his first appearance and start in goal of the young season, giving No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford a night off.

Chicago regained the lead on Handzus' goal and New York was unable to rally after that.

Khabibulin stopped 17 of 19 shots by the Islanders and Poulin stopped 25 of Chicago's 28 shots.

Chicago forward Patrick Kane's bid for a fourth goal in as many games came to an end. Kane had scored a goal in each of the team's first three games this season, the first time he has done so in his seven-year NHL career.

NOTES: Attendance was 21,196. ... While the Blackhawks now lead the all-time series 44-38-20-1, the Islanders have still won six of the last 10 games (6-2-2) at the United Center. ... Friday and Saturday mark the first of 18 sets of back-to-back games for Chicago, which was 20-2-2 in back-to-back games in last year's lockout-shortened season. ... Blackhawks RW Patrick Sharp needs one goal for 200 in his NHL career. He'll also play in his 600th NHL game on Saturday vs. Buffalo. ... Islanders coach Jack Capuano will coach his 200th NHL game on Saturday at Nashville. ... Friday marked the first of five games in eight days for the Blackhawks, who host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, play at Carolina on Tuesday, host the St. Louis Blues on Thursday and the Toronto Maple Leafs next Saturday. The Islanders also play five games in eight days, starting with Friday's game, followed by Saturday at Nashville, Tuesday vs. Buffalo, Thursday vs. Edmonton and Saturday vs. Carolina.
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