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Islanders end Blackhawks' eight-game win streak

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Having to cool off the NHL's hottest team isn't the ideal formula for ending a losing streak, but the New York Islanders did that on Saturday.

Kyle Okposo and Lubomir Visnovsky scored 51 seconds apart midway through the third period to give the Islanders a 3-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks at Nassau Coliseum. The win ended the Islanders' three-game losing streak; the loss snapped Chicago's winning streak at eight games.

"Tonight, against a very good team, we held our composure," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano, whose team limited the Blackhawks to 25 shots on goal after allowing 17 goals during the three-game slide. "Against a very talented team, our guys played well from top to bottom."

It looked like the Blackhawks were going to make it nine wins in a row when Patrick Kane scored 3:46 into the third period to give Chicago a 2-1 lead. But the Islanders picked up the tempo and tied the game at10:10 when Okposo slammed the rebound of John Tavares' power-play shot from the right circle past goaltender Scott Darling. Okposo's goal came with Chicago forward Kris Versteeg in the penalty box for a high-sticking call.

Before Okposo's tying goal could be announced, Visnovsky put the Islanders ahead at 11:01 when he cruised into the slot and picked the top corner past Darling's glove for his second goal of the season.

"We took a penalty in the third and didn't get through it," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "That got their momentum going, and [Visnovsky] made a nice play on his goal."

Cal Clutterbuck also scored and Halak made 23 saves for the Islanders (20-10-0), who looked much more like the team that started the season 19-7-0 than the one that struggled during its losing streak.

Tavares felt the challenge of playing one of the NHL's elite teams provided some incentive.

"It helps you elevate your game, knowing you have to be at your best," he said. "I don't think we played terrible hockey [during the losing streak]. We blew a couple of leads, and we weren't very good for a full 60 minutes. It's the small details in our game that had to be better, and they were much better tonight.

"We've got a great group. We know we're talented and we can compete with any team in the League."

Daniel Carcillo had the other goal for Chicago (20-9-1). Darling finished with 38 saves in the Blackhawks' first loss since Nov. 23, when they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Vancouver Canucks.

"They put a lot on the net," said Darling, a 25-year-old who is 5-2-0 in his first season. "The guys were doing a good job keeping them to the outside. I didn't make the timely saves when there were breakdowns, and that was the difference in the game."

Quenneville had no qualms with his goaltender's play.

"He gave us a chance all game long," he said of Darling. "You've got to commend him on giving us a chance."

Chicago dominated puck possession in a scoreless first period that saw Halak forced to make a big stop on Marian Hossa's wrist shot from the slot during an early power play and rob Brandon Saad on a breakaway at 11:45, after he stole the puck at New York's blue line.

The Blackhawks wound up outshooting the Islanders 10-8 in the period; their domination was more apparent in shot attempts (21-13) and faceoffs won (10-4). The Islanders were also charged with eight giveaways.

Tavares said there was nothing out of the ordinary that was said during the first intermission.

"That's a good hockey team over there," he said. "They came out flying. They're playing well, and we didn't want to give them a whole lot. Coming in here 0-0, we felt we got better as the period went on. [We had to] just keep getting better, and that's what we did."

New York came out much more energized in the second period, taking the first seven shots. That didn't include its best chance, a wide-open shot from the slot by Mikhail Grabovski that missed high.

After more than 34 minutes of scoreless action, the Blackhawks took the lead on Carcillo's goal at 14:25, only to give it back six seconds later.

Carcillo got credit for his fourth of the season when Halak stopped his wrist shot from the slot, only to have the puck pop into the air, flop into the crease and roll over the goal line.

But before the Blackhawks could enjoy their lead, it was gone. Chicago won the faceoff, but defenseman Duncan Keith's pass deep in his own zone went right to Clutterbuck, who made a quick deke and tucked the puck behind Darling for his fourth of the season to tie the game.

"We were up 1-0, and all of a sudden they were back in the game," Quenneville said.

The Islanders kept Darling busy for the rest of the period, ending with a 17-7 edge in shots on goal and a 25-17 margin through 40 minutes. New York attempted 30 shots in the period, twice as many as the Blackhawks.

New York was pressuring Chicago early in the third period until Saad threw the puck out of his zone to Kane, who was streaking through center. Kane fought off Visnovsky's check in the right circle and whipped a high backhand that went over the shoulder of Halak.

Visnovsky more than made amends less than eight minutes later by getting the game-winner.

The Islanders host the New Jersey Devils on Monday.

"I try to play the best that I can. Sometimes I am the hero," he said. "We have another game Monday."

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