NEW YORK (AP) - The Chicago Blackhawks are in an uncertain and wholly unfamiliar place.
They know they will not have the opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup, and morale is low. A franchise used to preparing for the playoffs has been relegated to finishing the season feeling good about itself.
And maybe look to see who will make up next year’s squad.
“When you’re not winning, it’s not easy to get that confidence and enthusiasm,” coach Joel Quenneville said after the Blackhawks snapped a five-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
“At this stage in the game, build a little something off it,” he added.
Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad scored in the second period, and Brent Seabrook added an empty-netter for the Blackhawks. Anton Forsberg made 30 saves.
“It was something, I don’t know, I didn’t really expect tonight,” said Kane, who centered Chicago’s top line. “It was a little bit different. Weird playing a different position. Something I haven’t done in six years.”
John Tavares scored late in the third period and Jaroslav Halak finished with 22 saves as the Islanders lost for the fifth time in six games and 13th in their last 15 (2-9-4).
“I think we’re better than what we’ve shown,” Tavares said.
Chicago was eliminated from postseason contention for the first time since 2008 following its 5-1 loss to Colorado on Tuesday, and pushed the struggling Islanders to the verge of being knocked for the second straight year.
“You’ll take a win when you’re (going) through a stretch when you haven’t won in a while,” Quenneville said. “Any win certainly feels better than what we’ve been going through.”
Kane opened the scoring 2:36 into the second period with his team-leading 26th of the year. With the Blackhawks on the power play after Thomas Hickey was whistled for tripping Tomas Jurco as the two battled for a puck along the boards, Kane’s shot from the right circle deflected off Adam Pelech’s stick blade and through Halak.
It took the Blackhawks 1:49 to add to their lead as Saad tapped a rebound off of his initial shot - which ricocheted off the end boards - along the goal line before the puck bounced off the back of Halak’s left skate into the net.
“It’s a tough one for the goalie,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. “It’s a bounce. Two bounces, two goals, we’re down.”
Forsberg made the lead hold up, even though he only faced 22 shots in the final 40 minutes. His lone mistake was Tavares’ unassisted goal with 2:42 left, but Seabrook’s empty-netter with 1:14 left ended the scoring.
“For the most part, we generated good chances, had opportunities, even in the last eight, nine minutes had some really good looks,” Weight said. “Just couldn’t get the puck by him.”
Neither team scored in an opening period which was mostly played at even strength, except for an Islanders power play late. New York outshot the Blackhawks 10-9 in the period.
“It sums it up,” Weight said. “We played a good game, it’s not good enough but we played a good game and we generated enough to win.”
NOTES: The teams split the regular season series, with the Islanders winning 7-3 at Chicago on Jan. 20. … The Blackhawks went 1 for 2 on the power play. The Islanders were 0 for 2. … New York outshot Chicago 32-25. … Chicago C Jonathan Toews missed his second straight game with an upper body injury. … The Blackhawks scratched LW Anthony Duclair. … D Dennis Seidenberg and RW Chris Wagner were the Islanders’ scratches. … The announced attendance was 13,091.
Blackhawks: Host San Jose on Monday night.
Islanders: Host Florida on Monday night.
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