The Chicago Blackhawks were trying to extend the longest winning streak in the NHL this season. The New York Islanders were trying to keep their worst skid from getting any longer.
On a raucous night at Nassau Coliseum, both sides had good reason to believe they would be successful.
After Patrick Kane gave the Blackhawks the lead in the third period, the slumping Islanders found their game and the net — twice in 51 seconds — to rally for a 3-2 victory on Saturday night.
"We weren't happy with the last three games, that's no secret," Islanders captain John Tavares said. "We've got a good team and we know how to respond, and we know we have to get better."
The Blackhawks provided a great test for the Islanders (20-10), one of the NHL's surprise teams this season.
When Kyle Okposo and Lubomir Visnovsky struck in quick succession, Chicago's winning streak was over at eight, and New York's losing run was snapped at three. The Islanders are the first Eastern Conference team to 20 wins.
"I'm not a hero," said Visnovsky, whose second goal of the season was the winner. "I try to play the best that I can. Sometimes it's not easy and sometimes you look like a hero. Today I look like a hero."
There were plenty of players who could claim that title on this night. Cal Clutterbuck scored 6 seconds after Daniel Carcillo gave Chicago a 1-0 lead in the second period. Okposo knotted it at 2 with a power-play goal, setting up Visnovsky's clutch finish.
New York fired 41 shots at backup goalie Scott Darling, a total that couldn't have been predicted when the Islanders recorded only eight in the first period.
"We were just trying to shoot the puck and go to the net," Okposo said. "When we do that, we're a pretty good team."
After Kane put the Blackhawks ahead 3:46 into the third with an end-to-end rush with a backhanded finish, Okposo tied it off a rebound of Tavares' shot with 9:50 left.
Visnovsky then skated across the Chicago zone and beat Darling to put New York in front at 11:01.
"We had some breakdowns and I couldn't come through," said Darling, 5-2 in seven career NHL games. "They ended up being the difference in the game."
Jaroslav Halak got back on his game and made 23 saves. He had lost two straight after winning a club-record 11. New York allowed 17 goals during its three-game skid.
Darling, subbing again for injured Corey Crawford, had won four straight — all on the road — and three times in six days. He stopped 38 shots.
Just when it seemed both teams might be shut down, the Blackhawks went in front on their second shot of the second but found themselves back in a tie seconds later.
Carcillo started it with a shot from the slot that Halak blocked, but the puck popped into the air and landed behind the goalie with 5:35 left. It was Carcillo's fourth goal.
Before that could be announced to the crowd, which had a fair share of Blackhawks fans scattered around it, a Chicago blunder got the Islanders on the board. On the faceoff following the goal, defenseman Duncan Keith got the puck in his end, but lost it to Clutterbuck, who came in alone and scored his fourth.
"This was a wakeup call for sure," Kane said of the Blackhawks, who host Calgary on Sunday. "We allowed too many chances. We will come back strong (Sunday). Our goalie was great and gave us every chance."
The Blackhawks had the better of the play in the scoreless first, but despite spending countless shifts in the New York end, the Blackhawks couldn't take advantage.
Even their shot count was kept down, and they took a 10-8 edge into the dressing room. Both teams had one fruitless power play in the frame and one stymied breakaway.
Brandon Saad was denied by Halak with 8:15 left after he took the puck away from former teammate Nick Leddy, and Okposo was turned aside by Darling with 5:53 remaining.
New York turned the tide in the second period and had a 17-7 shots advantage.
"Scotty kept us in," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We didn't make them do things they didn't want to do.
"That's a good team. They definitely outworked us."