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Islanders showed they can handle adversity in win over Blackhawks

New York Islanders center Brock Nelson, right, celebrates

New York Islanders center Brock Nelson, right, celebrates with center Alan Quine, center, and left wing Ross Johnston, left, after scoring against the Chicago Blackhawks during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in Chicago. Credit: AP / Kamil Krzaczynski

PHOENIX — It wasn’t a rare situation the Islanders found themselves in with just 61 seconds gone on Saturday in Chicago. They gave up the first goal for a league-leading 29th time this season. During their prior 10 games, seven of which were regulation losses, the next goal was usually coming around the corner.

But on Saturday, the Islanders answered the bell when they got a little jab to the kisser. A power-play goal from Anthony Beauvillier and suddenly the Blackhawks were the ones reminded how fragile they were.

The 7-3 Islanders win showcased their forte, which is offense — they are second in the league at 3.44 goals per game, a total that would rank among the 10 best offensive seasons since the 2004-05 lockout.

They did give up 39 shots on goal, but 18 of those were in a third period in which you would expect the Blackhawks to throw everything they had at Jaroslav Halak.

And each time Chicago scored over the final two periods, the Islanders had an answer.

“If you’re working harder than the other team, just make sure when something does go wrong, you don’t let it affect you,” Scott Mayfield said. “I think sometimes we do let it affect us when we shouldn’t. Sometimes it’s two quick goals, but you can’t feel defeated, you have to keep going.”

Doug Weight has used the word “fragile” to describe his team’s mental state a couple of times since 15-7-2 turned into 24-20-4. Missing several regulars and cobbling together third and fourth lines and a consistent defense corps has taken a toll, but as with last weekend’s 7-2 rout of the Rangers and their 5-4 overtime thriller in Montreal on Monday, the Islanders have occasionally reminded themselves that opponents can be fragile too.

And they must take advantage. They are still giving up too many goals, a league-worst 3.65 per game, but times are desperate.

“When things are going well and you face some adversity it doesn’t seem as big of a deal as when you face those challenges a little more consistently than you’d like,” John Tavares said. “It’s easy to get down on yourself and be negative. It’s important to stay with it, fight through any challenges you face in a game or certain points of the season. It’s just not getting so consumed with what’s already happened, it’s worrying about that next opportunity and looking for a chance to get back on track.”

Notes & quotes: Johnny Boychuk (lower-body injury) and Casey Cizikas (upper) skated with a handful of Islanders on Sunday in Glendale, Arizona, though neither is likely to return for Monday’s game against the Coyotes.

New York Sports