EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers didn’t leave anything in the tank before their all-star break hiatus.
Tyson Barrie scored a pair of goals as the Oilers headed into a nine-day break in the schedule on a winning note, coming away with a 7-3 victory over the lowly Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
“I thought we responded really well after a tight game against Columbus (Wednesday) where we only got one point against them (3-2 overtime loss),” Oilers forward Zach Hyman said. “I thought we played well and got the two points and we’re feeling good going into the break.”
Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman each had a goal and two assists, and Evander Kane and Ryan McLeod also scored for the Oilers (28-18-4) who have gone 7-0-1 in their last eight games leading into a break that sees them idle until Feb. 7.
“We took (the game) over in the second period, but there were still a couple of things I’d like to clean up,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said. “But our team is 10-3-2 since the Christmas break and you couldn’t script it better for us. I think we’ve taken a step here, it’s a credit to our players.”
Jason Dickinson, Jonathan Toews and Taylor Raddysh replied for the Blackhawks (15-29-4) who have lost three of their last four and entered the night sitting in second-last place in the NHL.
“We had a great start, but we maybe just stopped skating a little bit from what we had done in the first,” said Blackhawks veteran Patrick Kane. “It would have been nice to control it a little more in the second, those are usually make-or-break periods.”
Despite Saturday’s drubbing, Chicago still managed to win seven of their last 11 games. They are now off until Feb. 7.
“It is tough losing the last game before a break, but I feel like we have taken a big step in the last month and have been building on our game in all areas with every line chipping in at different moments,” Raddysh said. “That is what we are going to need the rest of the way and we have to keep giving it our all every night and keep getting better.”
Chicago had a glorious early chance when Andreas Athanasiou was sent in on a clear breakaway, but he bobbled the puck and was unable to get a shot on Oilers starter Jack Campbell.
The Oilers took the lead 5:20 into the first period on a power-play goal as Chicago goalie Petr Mrazek reached out to deflect a Barrie point shot, but it instead caromed off of his blocker and down into the net. Edmonton captain McDavid picked up an assist to give him points in 12 straight games and 29 of his last 30.
Dickinson tied the game 5:25 into the middle frame as he scored his seventh on a partial breakaway after picking up a backhanded feed through the slot from Patrick Kane.
Edmonton’s lethal power play put them back in front just over a minute later as McDavid sent a nifty backhand return pass from behind the net to Draisaitl, who beat Mrazek for his 29th of the season.
The Oilers surged ahead with a pair of goals less than a minute apart with about eight minutes to play in the second period. Barrie scored his second goal of the game and seventh of the season after Hyman tipped a shot that trickled behind the Blackhawks goalie, allowing him to sweep in and whack it into an empty net.
McDavid then scored his league-leading 41st of the season, wheeling out from behind the net before elevating a beauty of a backhand shot past Mrazek.
Hyman picked up his third point in a 2:33 span a minute-and-a-half after that, smacking home the rebound of a McLeod shot for his 26th of the campaign. Hyman has now scored in five consecutive games.
Chicago got one back on the power play as Patrick Kane sent a perfect feed in front that Toews tipped past Campbell for his 14th.
However, Edmonton answered back just 12 seconds later as an egregious turnover allowed Draisaitl to make a one-touch pass to Evander Kane, who rifled home his first goal since returning from having his wrist sliced open by a skate blade.
McLeod made it 7-1 with eight minutes to play as his shot was deemed to have crossed the line before defender Seth Jones could bat it out, even though play went on for a while before the horn sounded.
The Blackhawks made it look better with five minutes left as Max Domi took advantage of a giveaway to send Raddysh in to score his 14th on a nice deke.
Oilers netminder Stuart Skinner came down with a sudden illness, forcing them to activate emergency backup goalie Matt Berlin, a player from the University of Alberta Golden Bears. With their big lead, the Oilers put him in net with 2:26 to play, saving the only shot he faced. … Oilers forward Kane returned to the lineup after missing the last game while dealing with his bankruptcy case. As a result, James Hamblin was returned to Bakersfield of the AHL. … Out with injuries for Edmonton were Kailer Yamamoto (undisclosed) and Ryan Murray (back). … Chicago also had a prominent forward return as Toews was back after missing the last game with an illness. … The Hawks were without Tyler Johnson (ankle), Jarred Tinordi (facial fracture), Jujhar Khaira (back) and Alex Stalock (concussion). … McDavid became the first Oilers player with 50 assists in seven straight seasons since Jari Kurri (between 1982 and 1990) and the first player in the NHL with 40 goals and 50 assists in 50 or fewer games since Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux both did it in 1995-1996.
Both teams enter into lengthy breaks, with neither returning until Feb. 7.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2023.
Shane Jones, The Canadian Press