McDavid scores first playoff hat trick as Oilers beat Blackhawks

McDavid scores first playoff hat trick as Oilers beat Blackhawks

EDMONTON — Connor McDavid notched his first ever playoff hat trick to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 6-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, tying their best-of-five qualifying series at one game apiece.

McDavid scored 19 seconds into the game, then off an electrifying solo rush just past the four-minute mark, and once more on the power play late in the second period at Rogers Place Monday night.

Given that the rink was fan-free to prevent the spread of COVID-19, arena staff hustled down the stairs and honoured hockey tradition by tossing ball caps over the glass and onto the ice to mark the hat trick.

Game 3 goes Wednesday night.

Livestream the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, plus every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sportsnet NOW.

The fans, if there had been any, would barely have settled into their seats when McDavid, standing in the slot, opened the scoring when he took a bouncing loft pass from Darnell Nurse and redirected it into the net over the shoulder of Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford.

At the 4:05 mark, McDavid knocked down a stretch pass in full stride at centre ice and with his trademark world-class speed, turned on the jets, blew past Chicago defenceman Olli Maatta on the backhand and barrelling full speed toward the goalpost, flipped the puck up and over the short-side left shoulder of Crawford.

Chicago battled back, always chasing the game, but never taking the lead.

Midway through the first frame, Alex DeBrincat, circling the net, fed a backhand pass to Patrick Kane, who jumped into the play and redirected the puck low stick side on the far side past Edmonton goalie Mikko Koskinen.

Edmonton restored the two-goal advantage less than two minutes into the second period. Tyler Ennis, high up in the slot near the blue line, delivered a wrist shot that found its way through traffic and through the legs of a screened Crawford.

At the 4:22 mark, defenceman Slater Koekkoek jumped into the high slot, took a pass from DeBrincat and wristed the puck under the blocker side arm of Koskinen.

With less than five minutes to go in the second, Maatta wristed the puck from the blueline, which spun and knuckled its way through bodies in the slot, bounced off the shinpad of Oiler defenceman Kris Russell and trickled past Koskinen.

Edmonton regained the lead with McDavid’s hat trick. On the power play with under three minutes to go in the second, McDavid fired the puck along the ice from a sharp angle that deflected off the skate of Hawks defenceman Duncan Keith, between Crawford’s legs and in.

Edmonton put the game away midway through the third period when Crawford came out to play the puck behind his net, but bobbled it. James Neal swooped in, stole it and backhanded it into the empty net for a 5-3 lead.

Forty seconds later, Alex Chiasson scored from a sharp angle on a goalmouth scramble to make it 6-3.

Chicago’s top line of Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, and Dominik Kubalik, which torched the Oilers for 10 points in Saturday’ win, were held in check.

Kubalik, the 24-year-old Czech rookie, scored two goals and added three assists in the first game but was held scoreless this time around.

Edmonton outshot Chicago 35-26, after being outshot 42-29 in the opener.

McDavid, the NHL’s second leading scorer in the regular season (34 goals, 97 points), had a goal and two assists in the opening game but he, along with the rest of his team, had been roundly criticized for getting outhustled and outmuscled by the lower-ranked Hawks in a 6-4 loss in Saturday’s opener.

The main lineup change for Edmonton was power forward Zack Kassian. Kassian, ineffective to the point of being invisible on McDavid’s top line in game one, was punted down to the fourth line, with fourth liner Josh Archibald taking his place alongside McDavid.

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