By Brad Gardner
The Edmonton Oilers captured their second consecutive win against the Chicago Blackhawks with a 4-3 win Monday night at the United Center. Edmonton’s power play unit struck twice after a major penalty was called against Daniel Carcillo and the visitors were able to hold onto the lead despite a late push from the Blackhawks.
Jonathan Toews opened scoring at 12:54 of the first period. He did not get a lot on his shot from the slot, but it nonetheless slid on the ice and beat Dubnyk inside the post to the glove side. Carcillo set up the chance with a steal in the neutral zone and a pass onto the stick of Toews.
The tide turned when Carcillo was called for a five minute boarding major in the second period. Skating in on the forecheck, Carcillo threw Oiler’s defenseman Tom Gilbert into the boards head first before either player had touched the puck. Gilbert ended up rolling on Carcillo’s left leg, so both players ended up injured and would not return to the game.
Edmonton converted twice on the ensuing power play, the first on a rebound goal by Ryan Smyth and the second on a wrist shot from Taylor Hall. Niklas Hjalmarsson was victimized on both goals. During the scramble before Smyth’s goal, Hjalmarsson was the one who found the puck on his stick but he was unable to clear. A couple minutes later, Hjalmarsson took a high stick from Hall, lost his own lumber, and was unable to recover defensively in time to prevent Hall’s goal.
Hjalmarsson would make up for the mistake on the team’s first shift after the major penalty expired. He sent a hard shot towards the Edmonton net and it was redirected by Andrew Brunette under the glove of Dubnyk. The goal tied the game at 2-2 at the 12:39 mark of the second period.
The Oilers would strike back less than four minutes later when Andy Sutton found himself wide open on the doorstep. Jordan Eberle sent a blind pass from the side boards toward the middle of the ice, where Sutton was all alone in front of the Chicago net. He beat Crawford over the blocker to regain the lead for Edmonton at 3-2 with just over three and a half minutes left in the second frame.
Although Chicago was able to create some chances in the third, they could not pull even before Ben Eager extended the Oilers’ lead to 4-2. He skated into the zone on the right wing and shot a backhander far side, beating Crawford over the blocker at 8:17 of the final frame.
The Blackhawks kept pressure on Edmonton, eventually earning four minutes of man advantage time on a high-sticking call against Eric Belanger. Chicago was unable to hold the zone for the first two and a half minutes and did not register the first shot of the advantage until there was about a minute left.
Despite another disappointing turn on the power play, the Blackhawks were kept alive by rookie Jimmy Hayes. The burly winger scored his first career NHL goal at the 16:11 mark of the third period after picking up a rebound and sending a quick shot between Dubnyk and the shortside post.
The Blackhawks could not get another goal despite one last power play opportunity and a huge advantage on the shot clock in the third. Chicago was credited with 22 shots in the final frame to just six shots credited to Edmonton.
- Edmonton did what they were hoping in kicking off the new year on a good note. The Oilers had dropped their first three matches of the current seven-game road trip and were coming off just three wins in 12 December games.
- Chicago, on the other hand, had earned a record of 12-4-1 since their 9-2 blowout loss in Edmonton in November and was coming off a huge victory in their first match-up of the season against the rival Detroit Red Wings. The Blackhawks did not play like the better team for large portions of this game, however, most notably in their 19 PIMs taken and a team total of 15 giveaways.
- Just like the last meeting between these two teams, the special teams played an important role. Edmonton scored two goals in five opportunities while the ‘Hawks were shut out in five opportunities of their own. Both of the Oilers’ power play goals were scored during the major penalty to Carcillo and contributed to the major swing in momentum caused by that hit.
- Devan Dubnyk finished the game with 39 saves on 42 shots. Crawford finished with 26 saves on 30 shots and earned his second loss in his last five starts since retaking the starting job.
- Carcillo left the ice with an apparent knee injury. Given his list of priors, he was probably destined to miss some time anyways due to suspension from the boarding.
- For Edmonton, Tom Gilbert missed the rest of the game following the hit and the Oilers lost rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the first period to a shoulder injury.
- Steve Montador missed the game with an injury, allowing the combination of Sami Lepisto (5:22) and John Scott (6:32) to skate in limited minutes on the third pairing. Those totals led to Chicago’s top three d-men seeing a ton of work: Duncan Keith led the way with 29:39 and he was followed close behind by Nick Leddy (27:59) and Brent Seabrook (26:23).
- 3 stars of the game…. 3. Jonathan Toews, 2. Taylor Hall, 1. Ryan Smyth
- The Blackhawks will look to even up their January record in Philadelphia on Thursday in a 6pm central start.
In addition to covering the Blackhawks for TheThirdManIn.com, Brad is also the Blackhawks correspondent at HockeysFuture.com.