The Edmonton Oilers’ season came to an end Friday night with a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Place.
The Hawks took the best-of-five qualifying round series 3-1.
Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford was the star of the game, making 43 saves.
“Tonight you can’t tell me they outbattled us,” Oilers coach Dave Tippett said. “We had way more opportunities than them but we made some critical mistakes at the wrong time and it went in the back of our net.”
The Oilers scored on their first shot, 45 seconds into the game, when Josh Archibald one-timed a pass from Connor McDavid for his first goal of the playoffs.
Hawks forward Brandon Saad tied in a wraparound less than five minutes later. Matthew Highmore later gave the Hawks the lead, scoring on a deflection for the second-straight game.
“At times we played alright and at times we didn’t play alright,” Tippett said. “We needed some saves at some times. We needed to make a few less mistakes, and when you do make mistakes, it’d be nice if you get a few extra stops there.”
Just after a Chicago penalty expired early in the second period, Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins banged in a loose puck to make it 2-2.
Shortly after, Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat was slapped with a five-minute major for boarding Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear. The Oilers couldn’t score early in the power play and then had most of the remaining time negated when defenceman Darnell Nurse took an interference penalty. Bear was shaken up and left the game but returned later in the period.
“It’s little mistakes we had way too many of,” Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl said. “I think that’s throughout the lineup and that starts with our line as well. Just too many little mistakes that can’t happen this time of the year.
“We never really got our ‘A’ game going and without that, this league is too good to beat anyone.”
In the third, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews won the puck behind the goal and passed to Dominik Kubalik, who fired a shot over Oilers netminder Mikko Koskinen’s right shoulder with 11:30 to go. The Oilers had 20 shots in the third but Crawford came up with several big saves.
“We weren’t giving up much, but we were making some critical mistakes and not getting a save at the right time, and that’s what cost you,” Tippett said. “You’ve got to find ways to win games, not find ways to lose games.
“It’s a different feeling because of the situation with no fans, but you’ve got to bring your emotion. If you don’t think you brought emotion, then you’re probably not playing at the right time.”
With 2:03 to go, the Oilers took a penalty for too many men when trying to pull Koskinen. They finally got the puck and applied pressure in the final 50 seconds but couldn’t muster a dramatic goal.
McDavid had two assists to finish the series with nine points.
“It’s been a weird year,” McDavid said. “I think everyone can say that. Coming back from the pause, you never know what it’s going to be like.
“I thought we had a good training camp — everyone was ready to go. And then you lose three of four and you don’t get in. It’s just the way it goes.”
“We made some good strides,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “We knew it was going to be a battle no matter who we played coming into the playoffs. We came up short. There’s not much left to say.
“The other night could have went our way. Tonight could have gone our way too. Bottom line is, they didn’t — now we’re done.”
–With files from 630 CHED’s Brenden Escott