Blackhawks beat Oilers as Alex DeBrincat maintains All-Star momentum
DeBrincat tallied three points and Marc-Andre Fleury made 39 saves as the Hawks pulled away for a 4-1 victory.
Alex DeBrincat weekend of skating half-speed at the All-Star Game clearly didn’t slow down his momentum.
Back with the Blackhawks on Wednesday, DeBrincat added another three points to his rapidly growing season total and led the Hawks to a surprising 4-1 road win over the Oilers.
“The time away just rejuvenates you and gets you excited to come back and play a real game,” DeBrincat said. “We had a lot of guys play really well today, and [we] had that jump.”
The Hawks’ rest advantage — playing their first game in a week against a team that played the night before — led to a fast start.
Patrick Kane and DeBrincat teamed up for yet another deja-vu power-play goal, then DeBrincat found Brandon Hagel trailing a rush back at even strength to give the Hawks a two-goal edge less than three minutes in.
“We were reading the play pretty well,” Dylan Strome said. “We were picking up some pucks in the neutral zone and counter-attacking off [of] that. We got some good rushes.”
But the Hawks’ goaltending advantage proved even more important as the game went on Against Oilers starter Mike Smith, who looked shaky and low on confidence from the opening puck drop, every Hawks chance looked far more dangerous than it should’ve been. Against a calm, poised and on-top-of-his-game Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, almost every Oilers chance looked less dangerous.
Fleury’s steadiness carried the Hawks through an imbalanced second period in which high-danger scoring chances favored the Oilers 8-0. (They favored the Hawks, 10-4, in the other two periods combined.)
“That was huge,” interim coach Derek King said. “That’s what he does: he keeps us in games. He played a real good first period, made some saves when he needed them. [And in the] second period, we needed him alert and sharp, and he was — he was outstanding.”
King said he came “very close” to switching up the lines during that middle frame, only to remember what he’d said pregame about blending the lines too often.
So he decided to keep them together, and they righted the ship in the third period. Strome scored off a shot-pass from DeBrincat, who now touts 39 points in 47 games this year, before Kirby Dach snapped a nine-game goal drought to help the Hawks pull away.
Evander lashes out
The Oilers took a risk by signing the NHL’s most controversial player, Evander Kane, after the Sharks finally terminated his contract last month.
So far, it appears they’re getting what they signed up for: a talented player with a total lack of self-control.
Kane’s assist Wednesday gave him four points in his first five games with his new club. But his recklessness — illegally boarding Brandon Hagel in the second period, then intentionally high-sticking Fleury and slashing Caleb Jones during an outburst with 17 seconds left in the game — overshadowed his game-high nine individual shot attempts.
With the Oilers as a team floundering this winter under high expectations — King described them Wednesday as “fragile” — this perilous experiment seems destined for a bad ending.
The Hawks conducted the sixth interview of their general manager search Wednesday, talking to Lightning director of hockey operations Mathieu Darche.
Darche, 43, retired in 2013 after bouncing between the NHL and AHL as a player. He has held that role in Tampa since 2019, accumulating two Stanley Cup rings in the process.
Darche, Kyle Davidson, Eric Tulsky, Scott Mellanby, Peter Chiarelli and Jeff Greenberg are the six known candidates so far.