Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger, right, scores a goal past Edmonton Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) during the third period of an NHL hockey game on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in Chicago. The Chicago Blackhawks won 5-4. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)
Behind a first period barrage of shots and two Andrew Shaw goals, the Chicago Blackhawks knocked off the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 on Monday night in the first game of a two-game Alberta stop on their circus trip.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Johnny Oduya also scored goals for the Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 20 saves in the winning effort. Ilya Bryzgalov did a nice job in relief for the Oilers in the game, stopping all nine of the Hawks’ shots that he faced, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Devan Dubnyk’s rough night in the cage, as he allowed four goals on just 14 shots.
The Hawks got off to a blistering start on offense, maintaining a high tempo while developing plenty of quality scoring chances thanks to their precision possession game. Chicago couldn’t quite get on the board with any of their early chances, and then Ben Smith committed a tripping minor on Taylor Hall to send Edmonton to the power play.
Unfortunately for Edmonton, they couldn’t prepare for a weird play that gave the Hawks the lead. On a clearing attempt, Brandon Saad’s stick broke in half and his clearing attempt ended up being a weird little knuckler that Nail Yakupov tried to stop at the blue line. Sensing an opportunity, Toews jumped ahead in the play, and stripped the puck off Yakupov’s stick for a long breakaway. He ended up executing a perfect deke and roofed the shot over Dubnyk, giving Chicago a 1-0 lead.
Less than three minutes later, the Hawks struck again. This time, it was Chicago who was on the power play, and thanks to some deft work by Shaw and Toews to pry the puck loose in the crease, and Kane picked up the puck and tossed it over a fully sprawled out Dubnyk to put the Blackhawks ahead 2-0.
The Blackhawks couldn’t quite add anything to their lead for the rest of the period, but they continued to hammer Dubnyk with shots, winning the final total in that period by a 12-6 margin.
That domination continued as the second period began, and the Hawks were rewarded off another weird bounce. This time, it was Oduya who benefitted from the intense offensive pressure, as his slap shot from the point was tipped in thanks to Edmonton defenseman Corey Potter to put the Blackhawks ahead 3-0.
Marcus Kruger’s victory in a puck battle behind the boards also allowed the play to develop, and Kruger’s bounce pass off the boards to Oduya was perfect.
That wasn’t enough for Chicago, and thanks to a tremendous rush by Jeremy Morin, they added another goal to their total. On the play, Morin grabbed a loose puck in the offensive zone, and he had two different forwards with him on the 3-on-1 rush. He found one of them after executing a great deke, with Shaw serving as the goal scorer as he tapped the puck past Dubnyk to make it 4-0 Blackhawks.
The Oilers did have one last gasp of air left in them, scoring just two minutes later. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made a great play behind the Hawks net to shed a defender, and he found defenseman Justin Schultz in the near face-off circle. Schultz’s one-timer was high and hard, and it beat Crawford over his glove top shelf to cut the Hawks’ lead to 4-1.
The rest of the second period played out in much the same way the rest of the game had, with plenty of Hawks opportunities with a few Edmonton chances sprinkled in. Fortunately for both clubs, Bryzgalov and Crawford were both more than up to the task, and they reached the second intermission with Chicago still up by three.
The third period was a bit of a snoozefest, with both teams getting occasional chances but nothing to write home about. There were a couple of exciting moments though, including one play where Crawford had a shot get deflected into the air in front of his cage. Not content to just let the puck drop in front of him, Crawford jumped up and slapped the puck behind the net to kill the Edmonton chance.
Perhaps emboldened by Crawford’s Michael Jordan impression, the Hawks had one more goal in them. After a great possession in the Oilers’ zone, the Hawks got a goal as Nick Leddy uncorked a beautiful slap shot that Shaw was able to tip past Bryzgalov to put Chicago up by a 5-1 margin.
The Blackhawks will complete their Alberta swing with a game on Wednesday night against the Calgary Flames. Marian Hossa is expected to be back in the lineup for that one, and it will be interesting to see what head coach Joel Quenneville decides to do with his lines.