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Blackhawks finish home-and-home sweep of Islanders

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are still searching for another level in some areas of their game, but there are two they don't have to worry about.

Their second line and solid goaltending paved the way to a 4-1 win against the New York Islanders at United Center on Saturday and a sweep of a home-and-home series that started at Barclays Center on Friday.

Scott Darling, starting for the first time this season, made 28 saves and the second line sparked the first three goals, as rookie left wing Artemi Panarin and right wing Patrick Kane each finished with a goal and two assists.

"They've been fun to watch," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I mean, it's been some special plays and special players and puck possession."

Kane has three goals and three assists through Chicago's first three games. Panarin has two goals and two assists. The center of their line, Artem Anisimov, has one goal and creates problems by screening opposing goalies with his 6-foot-4, 198-pound body.

Including one preseason game, Kane and Panarin have played four games together. At times, it has seemed much longer. Each is creative with the puck, knows how to shield it from defenders and sets up teammates with precise passes.

"I just think they're amazing players, first and foremost, top players instinctually and [they] kind of anticipate what the other guy can do or [where he] will be or where he's going," Quenneville said. "[Their] patience level with the puck [is] extremely high end. The upside's still ... it's untapped right now, but it's certainly been fun to watch."

The Blackhawks (2-1-0) also got goals from defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk and Brent Seabrook. Van Riemsdyk's goal was the first of his career and he assisted on Kane's goal late in the second, which gave Chicago a 3-0 lead.

Rookie goalie Jean-Francois Berube started for the Islanders (0-1-1), who are without Jaroslav Halak (upper-body injury).

Darling started for the first time this season and looked sharp, making 12 saves in the first period, 13 in the second and three in the third. Cal Clutterbuck scored shorthanded at 18:55 of the third to spoil Darling's shutout bid, but it was much too late.

"We [needed] to bury our chances when we had them," Islanders center Casey Cizikas said. "Their goalie stood on his head and you just have to keep firing pucks and keep trying to generate those offensive chances."

Van Riemsdyk gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead at 4:07 of the first. After taking off down the slot, he scooped a rebound of a shot by Kane and put the puck into the net with a backhand shot.

It rewarded Chicago's second line for one of its multiple impressive shifts.

After getting the puck from Panarin, Kane shot the puck from above the faceoff circles. Anisimov screened Berube and stood in the way of defenseman Calvin de Haan, which allowed van Riemsdyk clear access to the rebound.

"I knew there was traffic in front, so I figured I'd hang there for a second," van Riemsdyk said. "I got a lucky bounce and just had a good amount of net to shoot at and luckily I put it in."

Darling turned away the Islanders completely in the first, which included a couple of good scoring chances. He did the same in the second, when Chicago increased its lead to 3-0 despite being outshot 13-11.

His biggest save was at 3:55 of the second when New York caught the Blackhawks on a shift change and sprung Nikolay Kulemin for a breakaway. Seabrook caught up to Kulemin, but Darling had to make a sprawling save with his left skate. Three seconds later, he made another save against Clutterbuck and froze the puck.

"I thought he wasn't going to be able to get across the crease, so I stepped out a little father, and then he made a nice move to pull it across," said Darling, who put his 6-foot-6, 232 pound frame to use. "I just tried to stretch as far as I could, tried to use my wingspan and I got a toe on it luckily."

Panarin, Kane and van Riemsdyk combined to produce the next two goals.

Panarin made it 2-0 at 5:53 with a wrist shot alone in the slot, after Kane made a great play behind the net to send him a crisp pass for the shot. Kane made it 3-0 at 16:25 to cap a shift in which he and Panarin took turns playing keep away from the Islanders in New York's defensive zone.

After getting the puck from Panarin, van Riemsdyk flipped a shot toward Kane, who redirected the puck into the net with another good screen in front by Anisimov. Kane has scored all three of his goals this season against the Islanders.

"When you look at the elite players in this league, they think the game differently," New York coach Jack Capuano said. "The puck finds them because they’re always in the right spot. He’s one of those guys. Every team has a couple. They’ve got a few more than a couple."

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