The Chicago Blackhawks scored a dominating 6-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers Saturday afternoon at Rogers Place in game one of their best-of-five qualifying round series.
The Blackhawks took an early penalty for too many men and the Oilers top-ranked power play made them pay. Connor McDavid rifled a shot over Corey Crawford’s right shoulder to give Edmonton the lead 2:34 into the game.
“Today we just got outworked. It’s easy as that,” Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom said. “We showed some urgency on our power play and got rewarded, but five-on-five we need to be better and be ready when the puck drops.”
The Hawks came back with three goals in 3:26. Dylan Strome intercepted a pass by Mike Smith and banked the puck in off the Oilers goalie. Jonathan Toews scored on the power play, then Brandon Saad deflected in a waist-high point shot.
“It wasn’t good from the start,” McDavid said. “We tried to grab it as fast as we could. We came out and scored on a power play in the second period to make it 4-2 and I liked where our game was at. I thought we did a better job as the game went on of keeping it simple — that’s what our team needs to do, ultimately — be simpler.”
Toews added another one with 7:03 left in the first giving the Hawks are 4-1 cushion after the first.
“I didn’t think we played well enough. Made far too many mistakes and lost too many battles,” Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said. “Simple as that. If you don’t elevate your game going into the playoffs, you’ll be behind. That’s where we were.”
Leon Draisaitl got one back early in the second on the power play, but Dominik Kubalik came right back, blasting a one-timer past Mike Smith on a Chicago man advantage. That was it for Smith, pulled in favour of Mikko Koskinen after allowing five goals on 23 shots in 26:32.
“We have confidence in both our guys,” Tippett said. “We had long discussions about it. We think we’ll use both of them in the playoffs. Smitty started the season 5-0, and we wanted to start the postseason the same way. Other than the giveaway that went in off his back, he was left on his own out there.”
James Neal and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored late in the third period. It was Nugent-Hopkins’ first career post-season goal.
“They got momentum going with some shifts in our zone and put a lot of pucks on net after we scored on them, especially on the power play,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “We should be coming right back at them five-on-five the next shift and they kind of turned it around right then.”
Kubalik finished with two goals and three assists. McDavid had a goal and two assists.
The Oilers were 3/4 on the power play while Chicago was 3/6.
Game two is Monday at 8:30 p.m. Coverage on 630 CHED starts with the Face-off Show at 6 p.m.
with files from 630 CHED’s Brenden Escott