Connor McDavid responded and the Blackhawks had no answer, as the Oilers captain scored his first career postseason hat trick to help Edmonton sink Chicago 6-3 to even the Stanley Cup Qualifier series 1-1 on Monday night at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
It didn’t start well for the Blackhawks. Just 19 seconds in, McDavid had his first tally of the night.
McDavid struck again when he blazed past Olli Maatta at 4:05.
A back-and-forth battle emerged over the next stretch of the game.
First, Patrick Kane cut Edmonton’s deficit in half with this goal, set up on a brilliant pass by Alex DeBrincat:
Tyler Ennis restored the Oilers’ two-goal advantage with his first of the series at 1:04 of the second. Three minutes later, Slater Koekkoek pulled the Blackhawks back within one:
Perhaps the game’s most pivotal moments came in the middle 20 minutes, when the Blackhawks had four power plays — including a stretch of nearly four full minutes with the man advantage — and failed to convert. In between those missed opportunities, though, Maatta floated a wrist shot from a point that took a fortunate bounce and found its way into the net to tie it 3-3.
That was the end of the Chicago highlights, though. McDavid completed his hat trick with a power play goal late in the second. After a quiet start to the final period, Edmonton scored twice in 40 seconds with goals from James Neal and Alex Chiasson, quelling any thoughts of a Blackhawks comeback in the third period.
- John Quenneville made his NHL postseason debut with Drake Caggiula serving a one-game suspension for an illegal check to the head in Game 1. If Quenneville can only be trusted with 6:04 of ice time (2:01, 1:13, 2:50) why is he even in the lineup? There has to be someone else the Blackhawks can use, right? Thankfully, Caggiula’s return in Game 3 ends this nonsense.
- In case it had been forgotten, Chicago reminded everyone about one of their biggest flaws during the regular season: poor in-zone defensive coverage. It started with the game’s first shift, when the best hockey player on the planet was left by himself while possibly violating social distancing protocols due to this proximity to Corey Crawford. It continued for much of the night and the results will do the same if those problems persist.
- Speaking of goaltending, Crawford still hasn’t found his best form. His rebound control and puck tracking were off in Game 1 and neither ability was much better Monday night. It doesn’t take much for Crawford to go from this to unbeatable, but given how poor Chicago’s defense was, he’ll need to find that final form if the Blackhawks have any hopes of advancing to the next round.
- The failed power plays in the second period were precious opportunities squandered but its hard to complain too much when it was responsible for three goals in Game 1. Chalk it up as a bad night and see what happens in Games 3 and 4, and if necessary Game 5, before drawing any substantial conclusions here.
- The only Blackhawks line to be above the 50/50 Corsi For mark in possession was the fourth line of Matthew Highmore, David Kampf and Ryan Carpenter. That’s not going to work.
- After a dominant Game 1, the Brandon Saad-Jonathan Toews-Dominik Kubalik line was much the opposite — in terms of possession — in Game 2. Saad was at 22.73 CF%, Toews at 33.33 and Kubalik at 42.11. They’re an enigmatic bunch.
- All that said, splitting the first two games is always an acceptable outcome for the underdog in a playoff series and nothing about this game should come as a surprise: McDavid is an otherworldly talent and, when given acres of space, he’ll convert. There was always going to be a game where McDavid took over because that’s just how good he is. But Chicago can be better than it was in Game 2 and this series is still very much a winnable one.
- Connor McDavid (EDM) — 3 goals
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM) — 3 assists
- Alex DeBrincat (CHI) — 2 assists
The Blackhawks play Game 3 against the Oilers at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.