It wasn’t easy, but the Chicago Blackhawks skated past the New York Islanders on a night that saw a number of firsts for the organization.
Among the firsts realized for the organization on Friday night:
- Rookie Joakim Nordstrom scored his first career NHL goal in the first period to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead. The score came off a pretty pass from Niklas Hjalmarsson.
- Netminder Nikolai Khabibulin recorded his first win as a member of the Blackhawks since the 2009 postseason.
- Netminder Antti Raanta earned his first victory on North American ice, leading the IceHogs to an early season win.
- And forward Vince Hinostroza scored his first collegiate goal in Notre Dame’s victory over Western Michigan.
The first 18 minutes of play at the United Center were dominated by the Blackhawks. Jonathan Toews added his second goal of the young season to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead, but that quickly evaporated in the final minute of the opening frame.
Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo scored 49 seconds apart in the final minute of the first to tie the game, and the Isles had momentum heading into the dressing room.
When the second period started, coach Joel Quenneville had thrown his lineup in a blender. Brandon Saad spent the rest of the night skating with Toews and Patrick Kane, and Andrew Shaw moved up to be between Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. Marcus Kruger found himself between Bryan Bickell and Nordstrom, and Michal Handzus dropped to the fourth line with Ben Smith and Brandon Bollig.
Toews had a fantastic night, leading the Blackhawks with seven shots on net and winning 16 of 23 faceoffs in 21:15. Saad’s speed looked more effective on the top line immediately, and that line had a number of quality shifts and scoring chances in the second period.
Quenneville also sent out Toews and Hossa as his first two forwards on the Hawks’ initial penalty kill opportunity of the night. In the game, Toews skated 5:31 with an advantage and another 1:24 short-handed on Friday night.
Nordstrom had his best regular season game in the NHL. Not only did he score the first goal of the night, but he finished tied with Bollig with a team-high three hits and one takeaway on the night.
Kruger skated 2:12 short-handed in the game and was much more effective at the dot, winning seven of 14 faceoffs. After struggling to kill penalties early in the season, the Hawks were perfect in two short-handed situations against a talented Islanders team.
Handzus, who won all five of his faceoffs in the game, was limited to just over nine minutes of total ice time in the game, but scored the game-winning goal at 6:45 in the second period.
Hossa showed a few flashes of the beastmode many fans have been hoping to see, and led the Hawks with five takeaways in the game. Ben Smith was credited with an assist and one hit, and was plus-two in only ten shifts and a team-low 6:17 on the ice.
On the other hand, Bickell continues to be a ghost in the early season. He was credited with only one shot on net and was limited to 18 shifts and 13:32 on the ice.
On the blue line, Johnny Oduya played another strong game. He led the team with six blocked shots and skated a team-high 2:44 short-handed, while Duncan Keith was credited with two assists in over 24 minutes of ice time.
Khabibulin stopped 17 of 19 shots to earn the victory.
The Hawks will come back on Saturday night and host a Buffalo Sabres team that will reportedly be without Patrick Kaleta. Kaleta has an in-person hearing with the Department of Player Safety scheduled for Tuesday, and will not play at the United Center this weekend.