Brent Seabrook and Ben Smith scored goals to bring the Chicago Blackhawks back from a 2-0 deficit, but Kyle Okposo avenged his Team USA snub to score the game-winning goal in overtime as the New York Islanders knocked off the Hawks by a 3-2 margin.
Corey Crawford made 31 saves in his first start back in 11 games, and Evgeni Nabokov made 37 saves as the Hawks fell.
The Blackhawks have been getting off to hot starts lately, and Thursday was no exception, as the first and fourth lines came out of the gate with a ton of aggression. Ben Smith was especially potent in those opening minutes, picking up a couple of good scoring chances by getting to the front of the net, and Marcus Kruger did a nice job as a facilitator in getting the puck to him.
In the first 11 minutes of the first period, the Islanders only had two shots on goal, but a Blackhawks mistake ended up leading to New York taking the lead. Bryan Bickell couldn’t catch a Johnny Oduya pass at center ice, and when Oduya came off on a change, Casey Cizikas came in all alone on Crawford and made a gorgeous deke to put the Islanders up by a 1-0 score.
The second period saw the Islanders carry over the momentum from that first period goal as they got several great chances against Crawford. Michael Grabner got to the front of the net as a pass was heading toward the blue paint, but Crawford was able to sweep it away with a quick pokecheck. Matt Martin then had another great chance along the side of the cage, but Crawford made a nice lateral move to stop it, thereby dispelling doubts about his health after sustaining a lower body injury.
Later in the frame, the third line of the Blackhawks made a big mistake, and the Islanders pounced. With the puck along the boards, all three Blackhawks forwards converged on the near side of the ice, and by the time the puck worked its way back to the point, the Hawks were left scrambling to get back into position. Michal Handzus and Oduya couldn’t get back in time, and Thomas Vanek took advantage of the space to pound home a rebound shot past Crawford to put New York up 2-0.
A late flurry by the Blackhawks toward the end of the second period ended up resulting in a Chicago power play, and they were able to take advantage. After some great second-unit puck movement, Kris Versteeg got the puck along the nearside boards, and fired a perfect pass across the ice to the far face-off dot. There, a pinching Seabrook one-timed a slap shot between Evgeni Nabakov’s legs, and the Blackhawks got on the board and cut the deficit to 2-1.
After Patrick Sharp got whistled for cross-checking, the Islanders got their first power play of the game. The penalty ended up carrying over to the start of the third period, but after the Hawks killed it off with little drama, they were the ones who capitalized.
With Sharp and Toews at the front of the net pounding away at a loose puck, it was Smith who ended up flipping home the rebound, and just like that the game was tied at 2-2 early in the frame.
They also continued the pressure with that first line, but it was the Islanders who got the next quality chance on the rush, with John Tavares barely missing an open net after a great pass from Kyle Okposo. Crawford scrambled to sit on the puck, and the game remained tied with about 11:30 remaining.
The Islanders picked up a power play with about seven minutes left in the game when Andrew Shaw committed a boarding penalty in the offensive zone corner, but thanks to some aggressive defensive back-checking and the forwards getting out to the point to disrupt passing lanes, the Islanders couldn’t get settled in on long possessions, and they ended up empty handed in the process.
With about two minutes left in the game, the Islanders got the puck to the front of the net, but even in a prone position on the ice, Crawford was able to throw up his glove and make a spectacular save to keep the game tied up. The tempo really picked up after that, with both teams seemingly intent on ending the game in regulation. Smith ad another fantastic chance alongside the ice, but his falling-over shot went wide of the net. Neither team could score though, and the game headed to overtime.
Early in the overtime, the Islanders got a great opportunity in front, and Okposo did not miss. He grabbed a rebound off an attempted shot by Tavares and whipped home a one-timer wrist shot to beat Crawford and send the Hawks home to defeat.
The Blackhawks won’t have much time to lick their wounds though, as they will take on the New Jersey Devils on Friday night in Newark.