Connor McDavid scored his first playoff hat trick to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 6-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, tying up their best-of-five qualifying series in one game per play. McDavid scored 19 seconds into the game, then just past the four-minute mark off an electrifying solo rush, and again on the power play late in the second period on Monday night.
“It was just our ethic for the job. (We) kept things easy. This all sounds really cliched, but it’s all the stuff it we didn’t do in game one and that we did tonight, “said McDavid.
Oiler forward Tyler Ennis said that it was McDavid who made the difference. “Connor led the way, especially early (and) set tone for us, gave us a spark. That’s exactly what we needed and everybody followed,” said Ennis.
Blackhawks: Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rink was fan-free, arena workers hustled down the stairs and honoured hockey tradition by tossing ball caps over the glass and onto the ice to mark the hat trick.
“I thought the hats were a little pointless,” McDavid said. “I would rather just drop the puck and carry on.”
Game 3 is Overnight on Wednesday.
As McDavid, standing in the center, opened the scoring as he took a spinning loft pass from Darnell Nurse and redirected it to the net over Chicago goalie Corey Crawford ‘s shoulder, the fans would hardly have settled into their seats if there had been any.
At the 4:05 mark, McDavid knocked down a stretch pass in quick step at the center ice and, with his pace, blew on the backhand past Chicago defenseman Olli Maatta and flipped the puck up and over Crawford’s left shoulder on the short side.
Chicago fought back but never recovered the lead.
Blackhawks: Alex DeBrincat, circling the net, fed a backhand pass to Patrick Kane halfway through the first frame, who jumped into the play and diverted the low stick side of the puck to the far side past goalie Mikko Koskinen of Edmonton.
“I figured tonight, we were doing a decent job. We had been 2-0 early in the hole and came back to tie things up, “Kane said.
“I think there was always the hope in the room that we should come back …. (But) once they have finished fifth and sixth (goals), that sort of put the game out of control.
Captain Jonathan Toews, of Blackhawks, said the Oilers had stepped up their game and Chicago had not replied.
“I don’t think we did anything on them as well as we did in the first game,” Toews said.
“We gave (McDavid) some Grade-A chances early on in the game and he made no errors.”
Blackhawks: Less than two minutes into the second half, Edmonton regained the two-goal lead. High up in the slot near the blue line, Tyler Ennis delivered a wrist shot which made its way through traffic and through the legs of a screened Crawford.
Defenseman Slater Koekkoek jumped into the high slot at the 4:22 mark, took a DeBrincat pass and wristed the puck underneath Koskinen’s blocker side neck.
Maatta wristed the puck from the blue line, with less than five minutes to go in the second. The puck in the slot knuckled its way between legs, bounced off Oiler defenseman Kris Russell’s shin pad, and fooled by Koskinen.
Edmonton has reclaimed the lead with a hat trick from McDavid. On the power play with less than three minutes to go in the second, McDavid shot the puck along the ice from a sharp angle that deflected Hawks defender Duncan Keith’s stick, between the legs of Crawford and in.
As Crawford came out to play the puck behind his net, Edmonton put the game away halfway through the third period but bobbled it. James Neal swooped in, stole it and put it back into the empty net for a 5-3 lead.
Forty seconds later Alex Chiasson scored on a goalmouth scramble from a wide angle to make it 6-3.
Chicago ‘s top line of Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, and Dominik Kubalik who torched the Oilers in Saturday’s victory for 10 points were kept in place.
Kubalik, the 24-year-old Czech rookie, scored two goals and contributed three assists to the first game but this time around he was left scoreless.
Edmonton outshot Chicago 35-26, having outshot the opener 42-29.
McDavid, the NHL’s second-leading regular season scorer (34 goals, 97 points), had a goal and two assists in the opening game but he and the rest of his team were roundly criticized for being outhustled and outmuscled by the lower-ranked Hawks in a 6-4 loss in the opener on Saturday.
NOTES: Edmonton ‘s biggest rotation change has been power forward Zack Kassian. Kassian, ineffective to the extent of being invisible on top line of McDavid in game one, was punished down to fourth line, with fourth liner Josh Archibald taking his place next to McDavid.