CHICAGO -- Michal Handzus was not the least bit surprised when coach Joel Quenneville demoted him from the second line to the fourth early in the Blackhawks' game against the Islanders.
So instead of centering for the likes of Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, Handzus found himself in the middle of Ben Smith and Brandon Bollig. It was from there Handzus banged home the winning goal in the second period of the Hawks' 3-2 victory over the Islanders on Friday night at the United Center.
"I didn't play well enough to play with (Sharp and Hossa) so things changed," Handzus said after helping the Hawks snap a two-game losing skid. "I wasn't involved with the puck and when you play with those guys you have to give them the puck and I wasn't able to do that."
What the veteran center was able to do was pounce on a juicy rebound Islanders goaltender Kevin Poulin left off a Duncan Keith shot and send it into the net for his first goal of the season.
From there, Nikolai Khabibulin and the Hawks defense stifled the Islanders to help the Hawks exorcise some demons of two consecutive heart-breaking losses during which they faltered late in games.
"We needed it," Handzus said. "We played pretty well the last two games (against the Lightning and Blues) but we didn't get the points. It's all about the results in this league."
In addition to Handzus' score, Joakim Nordstrom and Jonathan Toews also found the back of the net to help make Khabibulin the winner in his first start for the Hawks since rejoining the team during the summer. Khabibulin, who was spent four seasons with the Hawks from 2005-09, made 17 saves to pick up career victory No. 333.
Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey had goals for the Islanders.
Nordstrom scored the first of his career to put the Hawks in front after fellow Swede Niklas Hjalmarsson slid a perfect pass through the crease and the rookie finished with a forehander past Poulin.
The Hawks took a two-goal advantage when Keith (two assists) banked a shot off the end boards that Toews stepped into with a one-timer to fire the puck past a lunging Poulin.
After Bailey and Okposo tied it with scores 49 seconds apart in the final minute of the first, Handzus recorded the winner.
The Hawks improved to 2-1-1 and reversed a trend of giving away points with late losses to the Lightning on Oct. 5 and the Blues on Wednesday night.
"We've been close the last few nights," Toews said. "In (those losses) we felt we left a few points on the table. (Friday night) could have been one of those nights where you maybe fall into that trend where you start squeezing the stick a little bit too hard late in the game when you're only up one goal. But we just maintained our composure."
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