Crawford Returns, Blackhawks Fall in OT

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By Chris Kuc, Chicago Tribune reporterJanuary 3, 2014

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Corey Crawford led the Blackhawks on to the ice for the first time in nearly a month and wasted little time in shaking off any rust against the Islanders.

The veteran goaltender was tested on the first shot he faced and passed that and more until finally succumbing when Kyle Okposo scored the game-winner in overtime to give the Islanders a 3-2 victory over the Hawks on Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum.

Crawford made 31 saves — including several big stops in the third period to keep it even — in his first action since suffering what a source said was a groin injury Dec. 8 and the Hawks extended their points streak to eight games.

Brent Seabrook and Ben Smith scored for the Hawks in regulation while Casey Cizikas and Thomas Vanek had goals for the Islanders, who won their third straight game. Evgeni Nabokov outdueled Crawford to pick up the victory.

Early in the first, Crawford halted a terrific Matt Martin chance following an odd-man break for the Islanders and was off and running.

While Nabokov was doing his thing with strong stops on Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews, the Islanders scored when Cizikas stripped Bryan Bickell of the puck, broke in on Crawford and went forehand-backhand-forehand to tuck it into the goal.

The Hawks had the better of the chances in the second but Nabokov stoned Toews again and then Hossa to keep them without a score. At the other end, Vanek controlled a loose puck in the slot and knocked it home to make it a two-goal lead for the Islanders.

Patrick Kane came inches away from halving the deficit but his wicked wrist shot from the left circle caromed off the crossbar and out of harm’s way for Nabokov. In the waning minutes of the period, Nobokov denied Brandon Saad with a quick flash of his pad.

The first penalty of the game late in the second period cost the Islanders when Seabrook took a cross-ice feed from Kris Versteeg, stepped into a one-timer from the left dot and blew it past Nabokov.

In the opening minutes of the third, Smith tied it up when he found the handle of the puck during a scrum in the Islanders crease and knocked it past Nabokov.

Crawford kept things even a short time later when he denied Brock Nelson on a breakaway with a pad save. The goalie came up big again with a strong stop on a John Taveras attempt from point-blank range.

Late in the first minute of overtime, Okposo converted off a rebound of a Taveras shot to end it.

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