CHICAGO -- It could have come off as bluster, but Edmonton coach Tom Renney spoke his words confidently on Friday afternoon.
He was asked about his young team coming into Chicago's Madhouse on Madison to play the defending Stanley Cup champions and his answer turned out to be somewhat clairvoyant.
"I think we're going to be all right," Renney said. "We're going to play hard, we're going to give Chicago something to think about and the big thing for me is just play 200 by 85 (feet) responsibly with some passion. Then we'll see what we're made out of."
The answer to what they're made out of appeared to be "goal scorers" after the Oilers won 7-4 at the United Center and indeed gave the Blackhawks something to mull over. Despite being outshot 41-22, Edmonton got out to a big early lead and hung on for a confidence-boosting win.
"That was a fun game," said Oilers star rookie Taylor Hall, who scored his second career NHL goal and logged his second 2-point game in as many nights. "We knew it was a big test, with them being Stanley Cup champions. For a young team like us it was pretty cool coming into this building with that (national) anthem, but we knew if we played our game we had a chance to win."
Renney was more to the point.
"Chicago may have underestimated us and we played as hard as we could," he said. "We made the best of our opportunities early on and got balanced scoring from all four of our lines."
The Oilers (3-4-2) stormed out of the gate by potting four goals on 12 shots in the first period -- stunning the Hawks. Three goals came late in the period and the burst led to Chicago goalie Marty Turco being pulled for the first time in favor of Corey Crawford to start the second. By then it was too late.
Upstart Edmonton was far enough ahead at 6-3 starting the third that it didn't matter how badly Chicago outplayed it in the final period. The Hawks (6-5-1) outshot Edmonton 12-2 in the third and Patrick Sharp's League-leading 10th goal of the season made it 6-4 with 5:52 left -- it just wasn't nearly enough. Sharp added 2 assists to give him 15 points on the season.
Edmonton's Sam Gagner scored an empty-netter to seal it and give him 2 goals in the game. Rookie Magnus Paajarvi finished with 2 assists and a plus-3 rating.
"It's huge for us," Paajarvi said. "Now we know we can battle against the best teams in the League. Now we've just got to find that rhythm and energy for every game."
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Jake Dowell also scored for the Hawks, who play at Minnesota on Saturday. Chicago had 13 players log negative ratings, including Tomas Kopecky's whopping minus-5. They also might have another key player injured, as third-line center Dave Bolland, who had back surgery a year ago, didn't play at all in the third period.
"It's just disappointing," said Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who finished with 3 assists as one of the few positives for Chicago. "It seemed like we'd play hard and there'd be one breakdown or play where, whether it's off the rush or a breakdown, it's in the back of our net. It cost us every time."
Edmonton led 4-2 heading into the first intermission, and it was only that close because Kane scored his third goal of the season with just 10.2 seconds left. Kane's nose was cut after a check by Theo Peckham midway through the first. It appeared that his face hit the glass, but Kane said it was Peckham's stick that cut him.
Either way, the play seemed to summarize the Hawks' whole night. The Oilers took it to the champs and didn't back down.
Hall's goal got things started and provided an immediate boost. Eberle (2 points) skated into the Chicago zone and left the puck for Hall between the top of the left circle and blue line. Hall then wristed a shot that beat Turco far side. Toews tied it 1-1 at 10:11 of the first on a power play with his third goal of the season. He took a pass from Sharp and beat Khabibulin short side.
Things then spiraled for Chicago toward the end of the first, when the Hawks' defense started breaking down. The Oilers started coming at Turco in waves and Hemsky, Eberle and Gagner all scored within 1:30 late in the first for a 4-1 lead.
Hemsky potted one off a long rebound. Eberle took a perfectly-threaded pass from Shawn Horcoff and deked Turco to the backhand and Gagner potted his first one off a pass from Paajarvi. Edmonton kept it up in the second when Gilbert Brule found Andrew Cogliano with a pass to the slot just 2:08 into the period for a one-timer that made it 5-2.
The Hawks pulled within two goals twice more and hit a couple of posts in the third, but the Oilers weathered each rally.
"The rush game tonight certainly caught us flat-footed or in-between," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They made some nice plays and goals. We'll give them credit."
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