All the hype going into the Chicago Blackhawks’ qualifying series against the Edmonton Oilers surrounded the home club’s top-tier offensive talent, but it was the Blackhawks that came out firing as they beat the Oilers 6-4 in Game 1 of the series.
Rookie star Dominik Kubalik scored a pair of goals and added three assists on the afternoon, while captain Jonathan Toews had two goals of his own in the victory. Dylan Strome and Brandon Saad also chipped in with goals for Chicago, who seized a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
The Oilers did get goals from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the game, but the club struggled in five-on-five situations, spelling doom against a Chicago team that came out firing on all cylinders.
Mike Smith was chased from the game after giving up five goals in just over a full period of action.
The Oilers grabbed an early lead in the game when McDavid fired a shot over Corey Crawford’s right shoulder on a power play, but the Blackhawks came storming back. Just over three minutes later, Smith passed a puck out in front of the net, and Strome intercepted the puck and whipped a shot off of Smith’s padding and into the cage to knot things up at 1-1.
The Blackhawks got a power play a short time later, and they took full advantage. After winning a puck battle in the corner, Kubalik ended up picking up the puck and passing it out in front to Toews, who easily beat Smith and put Chicago ahead by a 2-1 margin.
Toews figured in the Blackhawks’ next goal as well, winning a face-off in the offensive zone. Olli Maatta ripped a shot from the point, and it deflected off of Saad’s stick and into the back of the cage for a two-goal Blackhawks lead.
Kubalik circled the net later in the period before locating a wide-open Toews, who calmly deposited his second goal of the afternoon to give Chicago a 4-1 lead through 20 minutes of frenetic action.
The Oilers scored early in the second period thanks to Draisaitl, but once again the Blackhawks responded quickly. After Kirby Dach pushed the puck to Duncan Keith at the point, Kubalik was on the receiving end of a pass from the veteran Blackhawks’ defenseman, and he uncorked a one-timer to beat Smith and chase him from the game.
Later in the period the Blackhawks scored again, with Kubalik once again doing the honors as the puck deflected off of him on a Keith shot and into the net.
The two teams played a largely uneventful third period, but James Neal did add a power play goal with about four minutes left in the contest after a mad netfront scramble to make it a 6-3 game. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also scored late, but they couldn't finish the comeback as Chicago seized Game 1.
The two teams will face off again on Monday night for Game 2, with the contest starting at 9:30 p.m. The game will air on NBC Sports Chicago locally, and on NBCSN nationally.