CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks were sloppy on defence at times Sunday night. The struggling Edmonton Oilers struggled even more in their own zone and it cost them against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Marcus Kruger scored the tiebreaking goal with 8:16 left in the third period, Duncan Keith added a power-play goal 1:55 later and the Blackhawks beat Edmonton 5-4 for their third straight victory.
“We’re happy to get wins and get points, but we always want to keep getting better, take positives from every game,” Keith said.
Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell also scored for the Blackhawks (12-2-4), who are 6-0-1 in their last seven games.
Kruger was alone at the edge of the crease when he took a pass from Ben Smith off the boards, turned and wrapped the puck past Devan Dubnyk to put Chicago ahead 4-3.
Keith added his first of the season on a screened shot from the point. It turned out to be the game-winner because Jordan Eberle scored short-handed for the Oilers on a deflection of Nick Schultz’s point shot with 1:28 remaining.
“We make a few more mistakes against these guys than we should,” Keith said. “They’re able to capitalize.”
Edmonton also got an even-strength goal from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and power-play scores from Nail Yakupov and David Perron, but lost its third straight and fifth in six games. Sam Gagner missed on a second-period penalty shot.
Chicago goalie Corey Crawford made 19 saves, while Dubnyk had 31.
“Their power play ignited their offence tonight,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “But still, it was one of those games where we stuck with it, which was important, and found a way to win against a team that enjoys playing against us and has some success against us.”
The Oilers were 1-1-1 against the Blackhawks last season.
“We tend to get out of our game playing against them,” Saad said. “We started slow, but we bounced back and finished the game well.”
The Oilers entered with the NHL’s worst goals-against average (3.83) after allowing 48 goals in their first 18 games. The Blackhawks came in averaging 3.47 goals, second only to San Jose, and had scored 27 in their last six games.
Defensive zone breakdowns doomed the Oilers in this one. The Blackhawks scored four even-strength goals when one of their players was left wide open near the net. Keith’s power-play goal through a screen was the only exception.
“That’s missed coverage, and missed coverage by some of our veteran players, which is concerning to me,” Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins said. “If you can’t defend in this league, you’re not going to win.
“Tonight we had flashes of very good D-zone coverage and then we had some flashes of just total unawareness of what was going on behind us,” he added. “We’re losing individual responsibilities in our D-zone and it’s killing us.”
Chicago defenceman Michal Rozsival left with just more than 4 minutes left after being hit in the face with a puck, but Quenneville said he would be OK.
Both teams and goalies played their second game in two days. The Blackhawks won 5-2 at Dallas on Saturday night, and the Oilers lost 4-2 at Philadelphia in an afternoon game.
Saad scored the only goal of a sluggish first period with 1:37 left.
Edmonton’s Philip Larsen got a stick on Brandon Pirri’s centring attempt from the left side of the net, but the puck popped into the air and landed in the slot. Saad drove to the net between two Oilers defenders and put a shot into the lower left corner.
Nugent-Hopkins tied it 54 seconds into the second period on a quick shot that fooled Crawford high on the stick side. After taking Perron’s feed, Nugent-Hopkins turned and in one motion whipped a shot into the upper left corner.
Gagner was awarded a penalty shot at 4:13 after Brent Seabrook hooked him from behind on a breakaway. On his attempt, Gagner lost control of the puck and slid it wide right after several quick moves in close.
Yakupov’s power-play goal at 8:55 put Edmonton ahead 2-1. Set up by Larsen, Yakupov ripped a one-timer from the top of the right circle past Crawford’s glove.
The Blackhawks picked up the pace, tested Dubnyk and tied it at 2 with 2:42 left in the period when Shaw capitalized on another Oilers coverage breakdown.
Saad powered into the Edmonton zone with the puck, but was steered aside by Anton Belov and Larsen. Shaw snuck in behind the play, took Saad’s pass and scored on a wrist shot from inside the hashmarks.
Bickell gave Chicago a 3-2 lead at 5:33 of the third when he was left alone at the edge of the crease and stuffed in a rebound of Rozsival’s drive from the blue line.
Perron’s power-play goal 2:25 later, on a deflection of Larsen’s shot from the point, tied it at 3.
NOTES: Gagner is 0 for 2 on penalty shots in his career. … The Oilers finished 1-3-0 on their road trip. … Chicago C Michal Handzus missed his eighth game with an upper-body and is still “one or two weeks” from returning, according to Quenneville. … Veteran G Ilya Bryzgalov, signed by Edmonton to a reported $2 million, one-year deal on Friday, is expected to join Oklahoma City of the AHL for a conditioning stint. He hasn’t played an NHL game since April. … Edmonton LW Luke Gazdic (shoulder) sat out. He was injured Saturday in Philadelphia.