The Islanders took a step backward with their play in the opening 30 minutes last night. It was nowhere near the energy or determination they've had the last two weeks, and their two-goal deficit was justified.
But that made the final 30 minutes feel like a step forward.
As they did a week ago in Chicago against these same Blackhawks, the Isles rallied to tie in the third period and salvaged a point, losing 3-2 in overtime on Patrick Sharp's second goal of the game 94 seconds into OT.
The Isles ran their points streak to six games (4-0-2), but they were on their heels too much of the first half of the game.
"That first period was like how we were playing 10 games ago," said Steve Staios, whose slap shot deflected off Michael Grabner's stick (Grabner's eighth goal of the season) and past Ray Emery with 9:08 left in the third to pull the game even. "We have to understand it's not always going to be there. But we battled back. You don't want to sugarcoat a loss, but there were some positives."
Those started to come late in the second, when Travis Hamonic wired a slap shot through two Hawks and by Emery with 1:39 left in the second to pull the Islanders within a goal.
On the next shift, Matt Martin laid out Hawks star Patrick Kane with a clean hit, setting off a chain of events that ended with a frustrated Kane throwing an elbow and going to the box with 1:10 left in the second.
Dave Bolland clipped John Tavares with a high stick off the next faceoff, and the Isles had 1:56 of five-on-three time. With 66 seconds of golden opportunity, the Isles couldn't convert before the second-period horn; Brian Rolston, who led everyone with seven shots on goal, missed the net twice in the last 11 seconds of the period.
The two-man advantage fizzled away at the start of the third, but the Isles kept pressing until Grabner got a stick on Staios' shot.
"We just wanted to get traffic and pucks at the net," Staios said.
The teams traded power plays and chances to the end of the third, and a puck hopping over Staios' stick led to a two-on-one that Sharp finished off.
"It would have been nice to get the extra point," said Kyle Okposo, who couldn't corral a rebound of Milan Jurcina's shot with 2:05 left in the third with Emery sprawled. "We still did a great job battling back."
Jack Capuano thought his team looked fatigued in a listless first.
Marian Hossa's behind-the-net pass banked off Hamonic, Al Montoya's pad and in at 11:42, and Sharp converted a three-on-two with Montoya too deep in his net at 2:23 of the second.
Montoya finished with 25 saves, steady but not spectacular. That was the same overall impact of the Isles' down-and-up night. They have progressed to the point where 2-0 deficits don't turn into shutout losses, but there wasn't enough to be satisfied with -- particularly the Isles' 0-6 record when the game goes beyond regulation.
Still, Capuano chose to see this game in the same light as last week's in Chicago, when his team twice rallied from a goal down in the third to get a needed point.
"I'm not disappointed," the coach said. "We keep getting points. We were chasing a little too much at the start, but we played a solid game."