GAME STORY: Blackhawks 4, Oilers 3
A late third-period surge from the Oilers comes up short in the final game of a three-game road trip against Chicagoby Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com
CHICAGO, IL - It was an opportunity to turn a good trip for the Oilers into a great trip, Head Coach Dave Tippett said before tonight's contest with the Chicago Blackhawks.
They would have to match the work ethic of a desperate 'Hawks team, and outbattle their opponents for two points that would go a long way for both sides.
But by the time the Oilers found their wings, it was a big hill to climb.
"We didn't play well enough the first two periods, pressed a little bit in the third, but dug too big of a hole," Tippett said.
Forwards Josh Archibald and Kailer Yamamoto pulled the Oilers back from a three-goal deficit with two strikes in 49 seconds of the third period to put themselves in striking distance of completing the comeback.
But a three-goal advantage built by the Blackhawks, constructed in large part by a pair of goals from forward Alex DeBrincat, provided enough padding for Chicago to hold on and claim the two points in a 4-3 victory over the Oilers at the United Center.
"Our first and second periods weren't good enough," defenceman Adam Larsson said. "You get desperate in the third, but it's almost too late. We gave it an honest push, but obviously we have to start a lot better."
With just under 12 minutes remaining, the Oilers got a kick from Archibald's 12th goal of the campaign when the winger put Zack Kassian's feed on the 2-on-1 into the yawning cage beyond 'Hawks netminder Corey Crawford.
Yamamoto then wired a one-timer accepted from Draisaitl top-shelf less than a minute later, and it would take a stoppage in play and a trip to video review by the officials to confirm a one-goal deficit with more than half a period to go.
The Oilers wouldn't let a Too Many Men infraction in the seconds following Yamamoto's 11th tally in 24 games this season slow their roll, but the tying goal never materialized.
"Not at all," Larsson said of any potential momentum break on the play. "It's a lot of hockey left at that point and we thought we had a couple of good chances in the end there. We just have to shut the door a little bit earlier.
Video: POST-GAME RAW | Larsson 03.05.20
"If you let in four, you'll have a tough time winning. It's the story of the night."
Tippett's group pushed in the final frame with intensity, but the bench boss' comments post-game drew back to the lack of it in the first 40 minutes.
"We need to recognize what we did at the start of the game," Tippett said. "You can say you're chasing it down 4-1 in the third period, but every team does that. I'm more concerned about what we did in periods one and two than what we did in three."
The Blackhawks came into Thursday's match fighting for their playoff lives, six points back of the Western Conference's final wildcard spot.
You could sense Chicago's fight early, and the home side showed their desperation that paid off in the ending of the Oilers three-game win streak and hopes of a perfect road trip.
Video: POST-GAME RAW | Tippett 03.05.20
"We've been in that situation," Leon Draisaitl said. "You just kind of go out and play, and that's not an excuse. If you want to be a playoff team, you have to beat this team. We have to regroup and be better next game."
Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse both had a pair of assists in the defeat, and Mikko Koskinen made 10 saves for the Oilers after Mike Smith gave way to the Finn in the middle frame after conceding four goals on 18 shots.
"That was not on Mike Smith. That was on the players in front of him," Tippett said.
The Oilers finish their three-game road swing with two victories and look ahead to starting a four-game homestand on Saturday when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit Rogers Place.
More to follow.