Connor McDavid notched his first post-season hat trick on Monday night as the Edmonton Oilers downed the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3 at Rogers Place.
Their best-of-five qualifying round series is tied 1-1.
The Oilers burst out of the gate with McDavid whacking a puck over Chicago netminder Corey Crawford’s right shoulder 19 seconds into the game.
LISTEN: Connor McDavid & Tyler Ennis
Less than four minutes later, McDavid blazed around the Blackhawks’ defence and flipped home his second goal of the game. Patrick Kane got one back for Chicago before the period was half over.
Head Coach Dave Tippett says they were led by McDavid’s two goals out of the gate.
“Those first two goals are both really strong goals, send a really strong message to our team that he’s here to play,” he said.
“But I like the way our whole team responded. Other than a little bit of the second period where we took the penalties and turned a few pucks over, for the most part we were pretty solid all the way through.”
Oilers forward Tyler Ennis put a long shot under a screened Crawford early in the second. It was Ennis’ first playoff goal since he played for Buffalo in 2011.
He says he took the lead from his captain.
“Connor (McDavid) led the way, especially early. Set the tone for us, gave us a spark, that’s exactly what we needed. And everybody followed,” he said.
Chicago’s Slater Koekkoek walked in from the point and beat Edmonton netminder Mikko Koskinen blocker side to cut the Oilers’ lead to 3-2.
The Oilers killed off three consecutive penalties midway through the second, then took the lead on a power-play goal for McDavid. His bad angle shot went off a Blackhawk and through Crawford.
Tippett says the team’s penalty kill unit had a big night.
“First of all, we took too many penalties – we put them to work too hard. But they laid it on the line, blocked a lot of shots, really dug in in a critical point of the game for us, and got the job done for us. Much better today than the other day for sure,” he said.
LISTEN: Head Coach Dave Tippett
Meanwhile, McDavid says the Oilers’ power-play units were motivated by the consecutive penalty kills.
“The power-play’s a funny thing, sometimes it can be a great momentum for your team, sometimes it can be a killer, especially when you’ve got a penalty kill that was as dialed in as ours was tonight, ” he said.
“The sacrifice all those guys made was special to watch from the bench, and it’s contagious. I thought they did an amazing job.”
In the third, Crawford misplayed the puck behind the net, allowing Edmonton forward James Neal to sweep the puck into an empty net. Only 40 seconds later, Neal barged to the net and created a pile-up. Oilers forward Alex Chiasson buried a loose puck and made it 6-3.
Koskinen made 23 saves to earn his first playoff win.
Game 3 is Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. Game 4 will be played on Friday.