"We made far too many mistakes and lost too many battles, simple as that," said Head Coach Dave Tippett. "If you don't elevate your game going into the playoffs, you're going to be behind and that's where we were."
Edmonton got the start they wanted in the opening frame, but certainly not the finish, as Connor McDavid started the scoring with a power-play goal, but the Blackhawks responded with four in a row to go up 4-1 after 20 minutes.
Chicago took a too-many-men penalty 1:27 after the opening faceoff, sending the NHL's best man-advantage corps from the regular season out onto the ice, and they made no mistake. Oscar Klefbom passed the puck down to his right to Leon Draisaitl, who zipped a perfect cross-ice feed to a streaking McDavid, who sniped a wrist shot just underneath the crossbar for his sixth career playoff goal.
That was as good as it got for the Oilers in the first, though, as the Blackhawks battled back in a big way with four goals in a span of 7:06. Some sloppy play in the defensive zone allowed Dylan Strome to scoop up a loose puck at the side of the net and bank it in past Mike Smith to even the score at 1-1 at the 5:51 mark of the period.
Chicago then got its first power play of the game and also converted, with their captain Jonathan Toews delivering a snipe of his own for his 129th career post-season tally. Brandon Saad's deflection extended the Blackhawks lead to 3-1 just 1:21 later, with Toews striking again for his 130th career playoff marker at the 12:57 mark of the opening frame.
Edmonton's power play struck again 4:13 into the second period to cut Chicago's lead to 4-2, as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made a brilliant behind-the-net pass to McDavid, who found Draisaitl in front for a one-timer as Corey Crawford was sprawled across the crease in an effort to keep up with the frantic play and precision Oilers passing.
Two power-play goals for the Oilers, two power-play goals for the Blackhawks just 2:19 later as Dominik Kubalik tattooed a one-timer over Smith's glove to make it 5-2, prompting Edmonton to replace their veteran puck-stopper with Mikko Koskinen.
Chicago's PP, in particular Kubalik, stayed scorching hot in the latter stages of the middle frame as the rookie sensation redirected a Duncan Keith point shot past Koskinen for his second goal and fifth point in just two periods. The 24-year-old Czech winger scored 30 goals and 46 points in 68 games during his impressive freshman campaign.
James Neal scored Edmonton's third power-play goal of the game and Nugent-Hopkins found the back of the net with a redirect late in the third period, but that was all they could muster for a final-frame comeback.
"We just weren't good enough, all around," McDavid said. "That's it, pretty easy... It's a best-of-five, Game 1 is important, we lost it, but there's nothing we can do about it now. All we can do is focus on Game 2."
The Oilers will now have a couple days to regroup and retool before they get their chance for redemption with Game 2 on Monday night.