Blackhawks aim to eliminate hub host Oilers
The Chicago Blackhawks have a chance to advance to the Western Conference quarterfinals with a win against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 4 of Friday's best-of-five qualifying series.
Chicago grabbed a 2-1 series lead on Wednesday with a dramatic comeback victory. The Blackhawks trailed by a goal late in the third period, but Matthew Highmore tied the score with 5:47 remaining, and Jonathan Toews put Chicago on top with 1:16 to go.
The rally tipped the series in favor of Chicago. According to the NHL, teams that win Game 3 after a series is tied 1-1 have gone on to win a best-of-five series 75 percent of the time (21-7).
"A five-game series is definitely different," Toews said to reporters. "But you always know even in a seven-game series, Games 3 (and) 4 are always the toughest ones to close it out. We had some experience in the past knowing how to play and how to prepare for those big games. ...
"Knowing that every game in the series has gotten tougher, that's going to be the toughest game coming up."
The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cup titles since 2010, while the Oilers are built around youth and have emerged as a legitimate threat in recent seasons. It remains to be seen how Edmonton's young core will handle the pressure of an upcoming elimination game.
Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl said he and his teammates have no choice but to play with desperation. The Hart Trophy finalist finished the regular season with a league-best 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists) in 71 games, and he has stayed hot with six points (three goals, three assists) in the series' first three games.
"It's obviously disappointing, no question," Draisaitl told reporters after the Oilers' late collapse. "... Got to make sure we win the next two. I mean, we all know the situation we're in right now. We have to prepare for a back-to-back. Whatever it takes to win two games in a row."
Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are tied for the Oilers' team lead with seven points apiece through three playoff games. McDavid has five goals and two assists, while Nugent-Hopkins has one goal and six assists.
The Oilers will be without center Tyler Ennis, who is out indefinitely with an apparent right leg injury after taking a hit from Chicago's Kirby Dach in Game 3. Defenseman Adam Larsson remains in doubt after missing Game 3 with an injury.
For Chicago, Jonathan Toews and rookie Dominik Kubalik are tied for the lead with five points apiece. Toews has four goals and one assists, and Kubalik has two goals and three assists.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford is 2-1-0 with a 4.33 goals-against average and an .859 save percentage during the series.
On the opposite end of the ice, Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen is 1-1-0 with a 3.21 GAA and an .886 save percentage. He has played the bulk of the minutes ahead of veteran netminder Mike Smith, who allowed five goals in 26:32 of ice time for an unsightly 11.31 GAA and a .783 save percentage.
Edmonton defenseman Darnell Nurse said everyone must remain focused.
"It's a long series," Nurse told reporters. "There are still two games to be played. We battled and put ourselves in position at the end of the game that we could've won. But sometimes the bounces go the other way. We have to respond, come here Friday and play our best game."
--Field Level Media