Believe it: Hawks oust Oilers with 3-2 win, advance to next round
In the end, tenacity trumped talent.
That pretty much sums up why the Blackhawks are moving on in the Stanley Cup playoffs, while Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the sloppy, turnover-prone Edmonton Oilers are headed home.
The Hawks' relentless veteran core teamed up with their up-and-coming youngsters -- including dynamic rookie scoring machine Dominik Kubalik -- and sent the Oilers packing with a series-clinching 3-2 victory in Game 4 at Edmonton on Friday.
Kubalik netted the game-winner off a pass from captain Jonathan Toews with 11:30 remaining. Corey Crawford played his best game of the series, making 41 saves. And let's not forget the penalty killers, who stood tall during 5 Edmonton power plays, one of which was a five-minute major early in the second period that could have spelled disaster.
Brandon Saad and Matthew Highmore also scored for the Hawks, who will now face Vegas or Colorado in a best-of-seven series.
"Really proud of how we competed," said coach Jeremy Colliton. "Right from the first game, we showed we were ready and committed to doing the little things that give you a chance to win."
Said Toews, who had 2 assists: "Across our lineup, guys stepped up their game. Got a lot of young guys who don't have a ton of playoff experience showing what they can do. That gets you going and motivates you more than anything."
Of all the big names, it was Crawford who shined brightest -- and especially in the third period when he turned away 18 shots.
Perhaps the biggest save came with 8:01 remaining when Crawford -- laying almost on his stomach -- somehow got the tip of his glove on a Zack Kassian shot from just a few feet away.
In the second period, Crawford turned away a blast from James Neal by barely sliding to his right in time and later deflected an Oscar Klefbom shot with his left leg while trying to deal with traffic right in front of him.
There were also countless pucks laying in the crease or clanking off the post, any of which could have ended up behind Crawford and completely flipped the script.
"Our D men -- our forwards too -- everyone was helping out in our zone," Crawford said. "I mean it's a total team effort."
Edmonton struck first when Josh Archibald beat Crawford just 45 seconds in. It was the third time in the series that the Oilers took a 1-0 lead in less than three minutes.
But Dave Tippett's squad started getting sloppy and the Hawks made them pay.
Saad tied things up at 5:16 of the first period, and Highmore scored for the second time in as many games by tipping a Duncan Keith shot into the net at 7:56.
Edmonton tied it up again at 2:02 of the second period, and 30 seconds later the refs called a five-minute major on Alex DeBrincat for his hit on Ethan Bear.
Edmonton should have had five minutes on the power play to score as many goals as possible, but the Oilers remained their own worst enemy as Darnell Nurse was whistled for interference at 4:48. That meant 4-on-4 hockey for two minutes, and the Hawks escaped completely unscathed.
Edmonton, which took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty with just 2:03 remaining, managed to get the puck into the Hawks' offensive zone in the waning seconds, but a late blast by Darnell Nurse sailed wide and that was that.
"Holding your breath there," Saad said. "They got a good look at the net and he just missed it by a little bit. ... Just thankful he missed."
And the Hawks, no doubt, are thankful to be moving on to the Sweet Sixteen where they will face the Golden Knights or Avalanche.
For now, though, they'll savor a sweet victory.
"We were pretty eager to get this chance and show what we can do," Toews said. "Technically we just made the playoffs now, so the real fun begins."