Dominik Kubalik tallied two power-play goals and three assists and Jonathan Toews had two goals as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Edmonton Oilers 6-4 in the opener of a best-of-five qualifying round Saturday afternoon at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford stopped 25 of 29 shots, helping Chicago withstand a late Oilers rush after the Blackhawks raced to a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes.
Edmonton opened the scoring at 2:34 of the first period, as the power play that converted at an NHL-leading 29.5 percent during the regular season made good on its first chance of the game.
Connor McDavid scored on an assist from Leon Draisaitl and Oscar Klefbom to provide the Oilers with early momentum.
The boost proved to be short-lived.
Chicago responded with an unassisted goal from Dylan Strome at 5:51 on a heady play that saw Strome bank a shot off the backside of Edmonton goaltender Mike Smith, who misplayed the puck after retrieving it behind the net.
That ignited a flurry of four goals in 7:06 for the Blackhawks, a run that featured two tallies from Toews – including one on the power play.
Edmonton’s vaunted power play struck again at 4:13 of the second, with Draisaitl scoring on assists from McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to trim the lead to 4-2.
Kubalik answered with a power-play goal of his own just 2:18 later, chasing Smith from the game after the veteran allowed five goals on 23 shots.
Mikko Koskinen relieved Smith and stopped 18 of 19 shots in his first career Stanley Cup playoff action. Koskinen, who largely split time with Smith during the regular season, entered the game with a strong postseason pedigree in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, but Oilers coach Dave Tippett gave the start to Smith.
Brandon Saad also scored for Chicago, while Duncan Keith had two assists. Toews also added two assists.
McDavid added three assists for the Oilers, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Klefbom had two.
James Neal and Nugent Hopkins scored twice in the last 3:53 to bring the Oilers within the final margin.
Game 2 is Monday night, with Game 3 set for Wednesday.