CHICAGO, IL -
The Edmonton Oilers gave the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks a run for their money in a fast-paced game that had plenty of lead changes but in the end it was the host team that prevailed at the United Center on Sunday night by a score of 5-4.
"Better effort. Still lots to work on. That's a very good hockey team. I thought our guys worked hard and competed hard," began Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins before noting that the team still needs to be much better defensively. "Missed coverage. And missed coverage by some of our veteran players. That's concerning to me. If you can't defend in this league you're not going to win."
Philip Larsen had three assists on the night but was also on the ice for four Chicago goals against, summing up the night for Oilers defenders.
"I think we had enough chances to win the game and if you score four goals on the road you should win the game. I'm a little pissed off at myself," said Larsen.
The game was tied 2-2 heading into the third period before an offensive explosion saw a handful of goals scored.
Right off the face-off at the 5:33 mark, Michal Roszival's blast from the point was stopped by Dubnyk but Bickel was right on the doorstep to put in the rebound and give Chicago the lead at 3-2.
Two minutes later, Nick Leddy received two minutes for hooking, giving the Oilers a power play with a chance to get back on even terms and they did just that.
30 seconds into the power play, the Oilers converted to tie the game up. Larsen's shot from the point was tipped in front by Perron and in.
Jesse Joensuu got sent off for holding near the period's midway point. Oilers were able to kill it off but just as the penalty expired, Marcus Kruger picked up the puck in the crease and slipped it along the ice past Dubnyk to give Chicago the lead again, this time for good.
Nick Schultz received an interference penalty, setting up another Chicago power play and another Chicago goal. Duncan Keith fired a shot from the left point that beat Dubnyk to make it 5-3.
Jordan Eberle added a shorthanded marker to narrow the gap to one and make it 5-4 Blackhawks.
"They played a system that we had trouble defending," said Eberle. "You try and take positive out of it but you're just pissed off about it."
Gagner added that he felt that the competition level was there for the team.
"I thought we competed. That's a big thing for us. We need to ensure we have that level of compete every night. We can't roll over. We have to continue to move forward," he said. "Guys were pushing the pace. There was a lot of battle out there. I thought we were better tonight (than yesterday)."
After a quiet first period that saw Chicago with the game’s only goal to that point, the game really picked up in the middle frame.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fired a seeing-eye bullet from the left circle past Blackhawks starting netminder Corey Crawford to get the Oilers on the board 54 seconds into the second period. David Perron made a nice pass off the side boards.
Just over three minutes later, Sam Gagner was hauled down on a breakaway, setting up a penalty shot for the Oilers centre. Gagner fanned on his shot attempt as the puck went wide.
Near the eight-minute mark, Brandon Saad received two minutes for elbowing to send the Oilers to their first man advantage of the period and it didn’t take long to convert.
Nail Yakupov hammered a one-timer past Crawford at the right circle after a feed from Larsen to score a power play goal for the Oilers, his second of the season.
Oilers nearly made it 3-1 after a Yakupov shot from the side boards that was tipped by Smyth in front nearly trickled in. Michal Rozsival swiped the puck away at the goal line.
Chicago started to carry the play as the period went on. Devan Dubnyk was called upon to make some big stops for Edmonton, the biggest of which was a brilliant glove save off a slapper from Toews at the left circle.
"I thought Devan, that was a hell of a second period for him. He made a few big saves for us," said Eakins.
With 2:42 to go, Chicago evened the game up at 2-2. After the puck was chipped away from Saad, he made a nice recovery to get the puck to Andrew Shaw in the slot. Shaw chipped the puck past Dubnyk to put the game back on even terms.
In the opening period, Brandon Saad jumped on a floating puck in the slot and hammered it past Dubnyk to put the Blackhawks in the lead at 1-0.