CHICAGO — Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks have picked up their games since leading scorer Patrick Kane went down with an injury.
Toews scored twice and assisted on both of linemate Marian Hossa’s goals to lead Chicago past the slumping New York Islanders 4-1 on Tuesday night.
Toews recorded his first four-point game this season as the Blackhawks won their third straight and improved to 7-1-1 since Feb. 24 when Kane — whose 64 points were tied for the NHL lead at the time — broke his collarbone against Florida.
Toews has seven goals and five assists in his last 10 games. In this one, he and Hossa produced as the result of dogged checking and pressure against a New York line centred by NHL leading scorer John Tavares, who was on the ice for all Blackhawks goals.
"One of our top goals is to frustrate whatever line we’re up against," Toews said. "We did that. I think the better we played defensively, the more we were able to create offence, whether it was off the rush or keeping them in their zone."
Hossa, with 21 goals, reached the 20-goal mark for the 14th time in 16 full NHL seasons. The 36-year-old forward missed it only during his rookie season and in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.
"I think we played the right way," Hossa said. "We checked their top line really well. We didn’t give them too many chances. That was the key."
Kane isn’t expected to return before late May, should the Blackhawks have another deep playoff run.
"Obviously, one player can’t step up and start producing and playing like Patrick Kane," said Patrick Sharp, who skated with Toews and Hossa. "The team in general has played good hockey. We’re moving on and hope he comes back soon and helps us."
New York’s Nikolay Kulemin scored at 5:29 of third period to end Corey Crawford’s shutout bid, but the Islanders lost their season-worst fourth straight.
Although Crawford made 38 saves, he wasn’t tested heavily by the goal-starved Islanders. New York has scored only one goal in each of its four consecutive losses.
The Islanders are five points behind the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers, who have played four fewer games.
Besides not generating enough chances, the Islanders were guilty of costly turnovers.
"To me it’s making the right decision," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "If you want to talk about the game tonight, we didn’t manage the puck."
New York needs to fight through challenges.
"We’ve got to see some guys play with a little more grit and desperation in the game," Capuano said. "That’s the one thing that bothers me a little bit."
New York’s Michal Neuvirth made 26 saves in his second straight start and fourth game with the Islanders since being acquired from Buffalo on March 2.
Jaroslav Halak, who established an Islanders record and a career-best for wins this season, sat out due to a lower-body injury. He didn’t make the trip to Chicago and is listed as day-to-day.
Halak is 34-15-1 with a 2.46 goals-against average in 50 games this season.
Toews scored twice in the first period, both on backhanders that beat Neuvirth on the short side, to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead.
"First half of the game was just, I don’t know why we’re not engaged," Tavares said. "We just did not do anything well."
Toews opened the scoring 7:01 in when his centring attempt from the right corner — with his back turned — struck the stick of Islanders defenceman Calvin de Haan and deflected in just inside the right post.
Toews made it 2-0 with 3:56 left in the period when he shovelled the puck from the low edge of the right circle. It struck Neuvirth high on the left arm and carried into the net.
The Islanders failed to score during a 5-minute major power play that resulted when Andrew Shaw head-butted Brock Nelson at 5:30 of the second. New York managed only one shot during the long advantage after Shaw was ejected from the game.
Moments after Nelson missed a chance with Crawford down and out of position, Hossa was set up by Toews and scored with 6:05 left in the second to make it 3-0.
Toews battled New York’s Thomas Hickey for the puck in the left circle and sent a pass across the slot to Hossa, who fired a one-timer past Neuvirth’s glove.
Hossa stretched Chicago’s lead to 4-0 at 57 seconds of the third when Sharp’s centring pass bounded off his left skate and into the net. The goal withstood a video review.
Kulemin cut it to 4-1 at 5:29 when he fired in a shot from the left circle after Tyler Kennedy’s drive from the right side bounded to him off the skate of Chicago’s Duncan Keith.
NOTES: Toews has one five-point game in his career, recorded in November 2011 at Anaheim. … The Islanders recalled G Kevin Poulin from Bridgeport of the AHL to back up Neuvirth. … Chicago F Joakim Nordstrom served the second game of a two-game suspension for a hit on Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson on Thursday.