Though the Islanders were defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in the shootout, Friday night’s game at the United Center was one to record and watch a second time. It was a high-paced, high-intensity game characterized by a lot of shots on goal and high-percentage plays which gave the Islanders a chance to win.
“I thought we played one of the better games of the year,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “That’s a good hockey team. Their [defensemen] activate as good as any team that we’ve played. They gave us trouble the first period and a half. They came and they came, and they beat us up the ice. After the second period, all of a sudden, we got 12-13 quick shots on net and we were right back in it. Our guys worked hard.”
Kyle Okposo gave the Islanders their initial boost with a power play goal at 4:07 of the first, but they would not hold the lead long. Andrew Brunette evened the score at 10:27. Exactly four minutes later, Matt Moulson regained the Islanders lead, but in a scoreless second period for the Isles, the Hawks took their first lead with goals from Ben Smith and Jonathan Toews, 3-2.
PA Parenteau opened the scoring 46 seconds into the third to tie the score at three, which was followed by a power play goal from Patrick Sharp.
Nino Niederreiter closed regulation scoring on the breakaway. Toews would score the only goal in the shootout for the Blackhawks win.
“[Al Montoya] made some great saves, and we got some bounces. It was a back and forth game, and in those types of situations you have to keep coming, no matter what happens. I think both teams had some sustained pressure, both goalies made some big saves. We had the lead twice, they had the lead twice, and the teams kept coming, it was pretty much a back and forth game, I thought.”
Moulson continued, “Unfortunately we only came away with one point, but it was a test of our character to keep coming back on a team like that.”
Niederreiter scored his first goal of the season at 8:55 of the third to send the game to overtime, After receiving a pass from Matt Martin upon a Blackhawks turnover through the neutral zone, Niederreiter went in on Crawford on the breakaway, put a wrist shot off through the slot at beat the Hawks netminder low blocker side.
Montoya was screened on Sharp’s power play goal through the high slot at 5:08 of the third.
Islanders started the third period down by one goal on the power play. With six seconds left with the extra man, Parenteau grabbed the loose puck bouncing through the slot and one-timed it high corner past Crawford to tie the score at three.
The Blackhawks got the best of the Isles in the second period.
As two Isles defensemen worked to cover Kane behind the net, he made a pass through the trapezoid to Smith at the corner. Montoya made the first pad save but went in for his own rebound, beating Montoya glove side at 6:41 of the second, tying the score at two.
Brent Seabrook cleared the puck on the Hawks penalty kill sending Toews battling for the puck with Milan Jurcina in Islanders defensive zone. As the puck skipped over Jurcina’s stick, Toews stole the puck and stuffed it in to beat Montoya shorthanded, which left the Islanders trailing for the first time all game with 1:19 left on the clock.
“They won the change game in the second period,” Capuano said. “We got caught out there way too long and they had extended zone time.”
To close out the first period scoring, Parenteau fed Moulson a pass inside the circle above the dot and the forward didn’t take any time with the release, sending the puck top corner over Crawford’s shoulder through traffic to take a 2-1 lead at 14:27.
Receiving a drop pass from Season O’Donnell, Brunette went in on Montoya with a quick change of direction and put the Hawks on the board at 10:27 to tie the score at one.
Set up from the blue line, Jurcina made an East-West pass to Travis Hamonic on the point, who fired off a slap shot that Crawford denied as he clung to the right post to cut off the angle and made a pad save, but Okposo skated from the circle to the paint and grabbed the rebound to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 4:07 of the first.
After placing 2 shots on goal in the second period, the Islanders put up 23 shots in the third period, outshooting the Hawks 41-36 through 65 minutes.
Al Montoya played his first game against his hometown team. With his friends and family in the crowd, he made 32 saves through 65 minutes, and is now 2-0-1 in three straight games on the road.
Montoya made a huge save from Marcus Kruger at 9:07 of the first, dropped his stick on the ice, dove from left side of net to right and swatted the puck out of the air with his blocker for the highlight reel save to keep the score 1-0 Islanders.
“This was one of the most emotional games I’ve ever been a part of,” Montoya said. “I kind of held it back, but I’m glad that one’s out of the way. It’s something I can’t describe, something I’ll never forget, but this team competed tonight.”