Kubalik nets 5 points as Blackhawks stun Oilers 6-4 in NHL qualifier opener

Kubalik nets 5 points as Blackhawks stun Oilers 6-4 in NHL qualifier opener

Game 2 is Monday

Blackhawks 6 Oilers 4

EDMONTON — Rookie winger Dominik Kubalik scored two goals and added three assists, leading the Chicago Blackhawks to a 6-4 win over the host Edmonton Oilers in the opener of their best-of-five qualifying round series on Saturday.

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews chipped in two goals and one assist.

Connor McDavid had a goal and three assists for Edmonton.

It was a continuation of the torrid scoring pace set by Kubalik, a 24-year-old Czech forward and a Calder Trophy finalist. He racked up 30 goals and 16 assists before regular-season play was halted in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Wednesday’s exhibition game against St. Louis, he had two goals and an assist.

Kubalik and the Hawks took control early in the afternoon contest, the first in Edmonton as part of the NHL’s restart.

He notched three assists as the Hawks blitzed the Oilers with four goals in the first 13 minutes of the game to take a 4-1 lead.

Kubalik then scored twice in the second period, his first goal chasing starter Mike Smith from the Oilers net (five goals on 23 shots), and his second getting past Smith’s replacement, Mikko Koskinen, to make it 6-2.

Three of Edmonton’s goals came on the power play.

Things looked good for the Oilers, and their top-ranked power play, early in the first period. The Hawks took a penalty and McDavid walked in from the faceoff circle and fired a wrist shot over the right shoulder of Hawks goalie Corey Crawford to make it 1-0 at the 2:34 mark.

Then the wheels came off.

Smith, notorious as a wandering gambler out of his crease, coughed up the puck behind the net to Dylan Strome, who proceeded to bank it in off his pad and into the net at 5:51.

On the next three goals, Smith got very little help from this teammates, who wilted under the Blackhawks’ ferocious forecheck, often caught standing around or turning over the puck.

At 7:56, Toews, left alone in the slot on the power play, buried a wrist shot under the bar, glove side on Smith.

At 9:17, an Olli Maatta blueline wrist shot was double deflected in the slot to fly over Smith’s goalpad and in. Brandon Saad got credit for the goal.

At 12:57, Kubalik swooped around the net and dished the puck to an unmolested Toews in the crease, who redirected the puck past Smith.

The Oilers showed some life early in the second period. They made it 4-2, again on the power play, when McDavid, behind the end line, passed the puck to Leon Draisaitl, who one-timed it past Crawford.

Kubalik quickly got that one back, on the power play, taking a cross-ice pass and shooting from the top of the faceoff circle to Smith’s left, sniping the puck over his shoulder and into the net. That was it for Smith.

With time winding down in the period, Kubalik, standing in front of the net, deflected a Duncan Keith blueline slapshot to make it 6-2.

The Oilers scored two goals with less than four minutes to go in the contest to make things interesting.

Edmonton’s James Neal scored on a goal-mouth scramble and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tipped in an Oscar Klefbom point shot.

The game was played in front of tarps, massive video screens, and empty seats at Rogers Place, which is hosting the 12 Western Conference teams as the NHL completes the 2019-20 season.

While Edmonton, with a better regular season record, was technically the “home team” the sights and sounds of the game were neutral. Goal horns would sound when either team scored, and there were revved-up announcements over the loudspeaker when the Hawks or the Oilers went on the power play.

Goaltending for the Oilers was a question mark heading into the series.

Both Smith and Koskinen had put up similar numbers working in a platoon in the regular season. Smith was 19-12-6 record with a .902 save percentage. Koskinen was 18-13-3 with a .917 save percentage.

The real goaltending question mark was supposed to be Crawford.

The veteran goalie is seen as critical to Chicago’s success, given its leaky defence this year, but only began skating again last week after contracting COVID-19. Crawford was 16-20-3 with a .917 save percentage in the regular season.

Crawford looked sharp Saturday but didn’t see too many dangerous shots. Chicago outshot Edmonton 43-29.

The Blackhawks, 32-30-8 in the regular season, were decided underdogs.

They were trending out of the playoff picture and finished 23rd overall when regular-season play was suspended. They are the bottom seed among the 12 teams playing in the Western Conference elimination round.

The Oilers, seeded fifth with a 37-25-9 record (12th in NHL), were seen as the favourite, especially given they have the two top point-getters this season in the NHL: Draisaitl (110 points) and McDavid (97 points).

Game 2 goes Monday.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
City of Wetaskiwin launches Whistle-blower Program

Whistle-blower program acts as anonymous forum to hold local government accountable

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed eight additional virus-deaths Monday afternoon including one in central zone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Central zone up to 1,249 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer sits at 257 active COVID-19 cases

Executive Director and Co-Founder of Rock Soup Craig Haavalsen is sleeping in a tent outside Rock Soup’s location until the Go Fund Me for Rock Soup raises $10,000. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Putting normalcy into asking for help: New non-profit sets up in Wetaskiwin

Rock Soup non-profit is a new secular Food Bank putting down roots in Wetaskiwin.

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season’s top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Curling Canada has provisional approval for Calgary’s hub-city concept from Alberta Health

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

A scene from last year’s Light the Night fundraiser at the Stettler Town and Country Museum. This year’s rendition is on a drive-through basis only, but it still promises to be a not-to-be-missed seasonal highlight. (Independent file photo)
Stettler Town and Country Museum hosts ‘Light the Night’

This year’s rendition is drive-through only, but will still prove to be a dazzling display

Most Read