Along the Boards: Blackhawks defeat Oilers 4–3, take 2–1 series lead

  

After a solid win in Game 1, the Chicago Blackhawks were handed a loss by the Edmonton Oilers in the second game of the series. Both teams looked to take the series lead in Game 3.

After serving a one-game suspension for an illegal check to the head, Drake Caggiula made his way back into the lineup for the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson was ruled “unfit to play” during warmups. Caleb Jones drew into the lineup to replace Larsson, sliding onto the third pairing alongside Matt Benning.

For once, Connor McDavid did not score early in the period to give the Oilers an early lead. Instead, the Blackhawks were the ones to put the puck in the net first. More specifically, Olli Maatta gave Chicago a 1–0 lead just under halfway through the opening frame with a blast from the point.

But, just 30 seconds later, the Oilers tied it up thanks to Hart Trophy nominee Leon Draisaitl. Three Blackhawks were looming behind the goal line and got caught there once the puck found its way to Tyler Ennis, who passed it over to Draisaitl.

After the tying goal, both teams traded a handful of chances. But the Blackhawks had a surplus of golden opportunities in the first period, including three posts. Within the final four minutes of the period, three penalties were called on the Oilers, giving Chicago a five-on-three opportunity they eventually capitalized on.

After Alex DeBrincat found Kirby Dach down low, the rookie tossed the puck in front of the net for Dominik Kubalik. Kubalik could not put it past Edmonton netminder Mikko Koskinen, but the biscuit somehow found its way in off Jonathan Toews‘ foot with 4.2 seconds left in the first period, giving the Blackhawks a 2–1 lead.

 

With just under five minutes gone by in the second period, the Oilers found themselves with a couple of good chances in the offensive zone. From the boards, Benning put a slap shot on net. Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford was able to get a piece of that shot, but was unable to corral the rebound. Once again, Draisaitl found the puck and lifted it past Crawford to tie the game at 2–2.

Edmonton and Chicago exchanged power plays throughout the period, and Brandon Saad hit his second post of the game. Both teams remained fairly undisciplined throughout the rest of the period, which seems to be a theme during this series.

With around three minutes left in the period, Dach laid a hit Ennis, who unfortunately was injured on the play. Ennis, an Edmonton native, left the game without putting any weight on his right leg.

DeBrincat and Benning got into a scrum and both were given infractions just over a minute later. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, DeBrincat was called for both slashing and roughing, putting Edmonton on the power play.

The Oilers moved the puck well on the advantage and eventually capitalized. Draisaitl tossed the puck to the front of the net. Crawford could not grab the rebound, the puck landed on McDavid’s stick and he gave Edmonton a 3–2 lead heading into the final frame.

Things moved a bit faster during the third period. Toews hit the post off a rebound just over four minutes in, narrowly missing out on leveling the score. In total, the Blackhawks hit five posts during the game.

After back and forth action throughout the frame, Chicago found some time in the offensive zone with 5:47 left. Slater Koekkoek took a slap shot close to the blue line. Matthew Highmore deflected it in right by Koskinen to tie the game at 3–3.

In a major turn of events, the Blackhawks were given a gift of a goal. Toews won an offensive-zone face off, allowing Chicago to try and get the puck on net. Connor Murphy snapped it toward goal, hoping for a tip from Toews, and that is exactly what he got. Well, kind of. The puck actually went off Toews’ knee after being deflected by Edmonton defenseman Ethan Bear. Either way, it was a goal, giving the Hawks a 4–3 lead with just over a minute remaining in the game.

Despite some pressure from the Oilers late, Chicago held onto the lead and took a 2–1 series lead.

Along the boards

Everyone noticed how good rookie forward Kirby Dach looked during Phase 3 training camp. That has clearly translated into actual game play so far, and he looks fantastic. He is battling along the boards for pucks and planting himself in front of the net on the first power play unit. Dach is doing everything fans want from him, and he is been rewarded by earning more and more ice time every night. So far, he has four points in three games, all of them being assists. Hopefully he gets a goal at some point, because he truly deserves it.

There is no question the Oilers’ special teams are very good, but Chicago’s power play was abysmal tonight. Outside of the five-on-three conversion, they generated little to no opportunities every time they had a man advantage. In a series that hinges on power play and penalty kill success, this team simply cannot give away prime opportunities when up a man.

There is not much to point out here. It is there for you to see. The Blackhawks have to do a better job at defending the right side of the net. Edmonton is getting most of their chances from this area of the ice. Crawford also needs to do a better job at controlling rebounds. While there was no game plan to plant defenders at this side of the night tonight, there needs to be one going forward or the Blackhawks will find themselves in a lot of trouble.

The Blackhawks and Oilers will be back for Game 4 on NBCSN on Friday. The game is scheduled to begin at 5:45 p.m. CDT.

Center IceForumsAlong the Boards: Blackhawks defeat Oilers 4–3, take 2–1 series lead

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