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Blackhawks score three in third to sink Oilers

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Edmonton Oilers did everything they usually do against the Chicago Blackhawks, except win.

The Oilers again played well against Chicago, but the Blackhawks got late goals from Marcus Kruger and Duncan Keith and held on for a 5-4 victory Sunday night at United Center.

"It was a funny night," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we checked well in the first period. After that, they scored a goal and they can come [at you]. Their power play ignited their offense tonight, but still it was one of those games where we stuck with it, which was important. [We] found a way to win against a team that enjoys playing us and has some success against us, so we'll take the points."

Edmonton scored on both of its power plays, a day after Chicago killed off all six it faced on the road against the Dallas Stars. The effort came the same day the Blackhawks saw the New York Islanders slide past them as the NHL's worst penalty-killing team.

Being at or even near the bottom of the League on the penalty kill might sink some teams, but not the Blackhawks (12-2-4). They won for their third straight and swept their third of four back-to-back sets on the schedule.

Brandon Saad (one goal, one assist), Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell also scored for Chicago, which has recorded at least a point in a season-high seven straight games and scored at least five goals in six of its past nine contests.

"The first couple weeks, or month, we were winning 3-2 or 2-1, and now it's kind of like the opposite," said Bickell, whose goal early in the third gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead. "It's nice to get the offense, but I know it's not always going to be like that. We need to play defense first and keep the puck out of our net, and I think the offense will come."

Corey Crawford is certainly helping defensively. He started both ends of a back-to-back for a second consecutive weekend and picked up a pair of wins to improve to 11-2-3 in 16 games.

After a 5-2 win Saturday night in Dallas, Crawford made 19 saves against the pesky Oilers (4-13-2), including a stop on a penalty shot by Sam Gagner in the second period. Crawford is now 3-for-3 against penalty shots this season and 8-for-8 in his career.

Gagner could've broken a 1-1 tie, but he made one too many dekes and lost the puck after Crawford's slide across the crease forced him to go wide.

"We always look at guys' penalty shots before the game on video," Crawford said. "It's good to keep in the back of your mind, but for the most part, it's read and react. I kind of felt that move was coming, so when he went to the backhand I was ready to push to the other side before he even got there."

The Oilers have been swept in all three of their back-to-back sets and dropped their third straight game. They won just once on a four-game road trip and now head home for five of their next six games.

"Right now, it's tough for me to stand here and say what we did wrong and what we did right," said Philip Larsen, who finished with three assists. "Bottom line is that we didn't get any points, and that's what matters right now. We have to bounce back somehow."

Devan Dubnyk took the loss for Edmonton. He also was starting for the second time in as many days in net.

The Oilers did not go quietly after falling behind 5-3 with 6:21 left in the third. Jordan Eberle's shorthanded goal with 1:28 remaining made it a one-goal game, but that's where the comeback bid ended.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and David Perron also scored for the Oilers.

Seven of the game's eight goals were scored in the second and third periods after a first that was scarce on quality scoring chances.

The Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead on Saad's goal with 1:37 left in the first. After getting knocked off his feet near the right point in the Edmonton zone while keeping a play alive, Saad got up and cruised to the low slot, where he swatted the puck over Dubnyk's right pad off a deflected pass attempt by Brandon Pirri.

It didn't take the Oilers long to respond. Nugent-Hopkins tied it with his fifth goal 54 seconds into the second off a hard wrister from the left circle that beat Crawford high to the short side. Chicago bounced right back to swarm the Oilers' net but couldn't score off a couple good scoring chances for Patrick Kane and Shaw.

The Oilers used the resulting momentum to take a 2-1 lead on Yakupov's power-play goal at 8:55, four minutes after Gagner was denied on the penalty shot. It was Yakupov's second of the season and first since Oct. 27 against the Los Angeles Kings.

It was the first power-play goal against Chicago in five games, ending a string of nine straight successful kills that included a 6-for-6 performance Saturday.

The score stayed that way until Saad and Shaw combined to tie it 2-2 with 2:42 left in the second. Shaw snapped his fourth goal of the season past Dubnyk from the low slot off a cross-ice pass from Saad, which set the stage for the third.

The final period was more fitting of a game between these teams, with five combined goals. Bickell and Perron traded goals for a 3-3 score with 12:02 left before Kruger put Chicago up to stay with his second goal of the season. He scooped a pass from the boards by Ben Smith and tucked it between Dubnyk's right skate and the post.

Keith made it 5-3 almost five minutes later off a point blast. The veteran defenseman's first goal of the season ended up being the game-winner.

"Obviously, they're a younger team and they probably get excited [playing us]," Keith said of the Oilers. "It's a fun atmosphere to play in, and I know they've got some guys on their team that are friends with other guys on our team, so there's competitiveness there. We made it a little interesting there at the end, but we got the win."

Late in the third, Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival was hit in the mouth by Perron's dump-in attempt as he sat on the bench. Quenneville expects him to be OK, but did say the blueliner was "getting some work done" after the game.

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