McDavid scores first playoff hat trick as Oilers beat Blackhawks

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Connor McDavid torched the Chicago Blackhawks early and often, notching his first-ever playoff hat trick while leading the Edmonton Oilers to a 6-3 win Monday night in NHL qualifying play.

The win tied the best of five series at one game apiece and redeemed an Oiler team that was roundly criticized after being outhustled, outsmuscled, outshot and outscored by the lower-seed Hawks in game one.

McDavid scored 19 seconds into the game, then notched his second off an electrifying solo rush just past the four-minute mark, and added one more on the power play late in the second period at Rogers Place.

“It was just our work ethic. (We) kept it simple. It sounds all very cliched, but that’s all stuff we didn’t do in game one and did tonight,” said McDavid post-game.

Given that the rink was fan-free to prevent the spread of COVID-19, arena staff hustled down the stairs and honoured hockey tradition by tossing ball caps over the glass and onto the ice to mark the hat trick after McDavid’s third marker.

Did you like the lid toss? McDavid was asked.

“I found the hats a little unnecessary,” he said. “I’d rather just drop the puck and keep on going.”

Chicago never quit but was always chasing the game, tying it at three late in the second period before McDavid got the hat trick goal to put Edmonton up for good.

“I thought we did a good job tonight. We were in the hole 2-0 early and came back to tie it,” said Chicago winger Patrick Kane.

“I think the confidence in the room was still there that we were going to come back …. (but) once they got the fifth and sixth (goals) it kinda put the game out of reach.”

Blackhawk captain Jonathan Toews said the Oilers stepped their game up and Chicago didn’t respond.

“I don’t think we made things as hard on them as we did in the first game,” said Toews, referring to Chicago’s 6-4 win Saturday afternoon.

“Early in the game, we were giving (McDavid) some Grade-A chances and he’s not making any mistakes.”

McDavid was on a mission and in what could be called a “must win’ helped his Oilers even the series.

Chicago’s top line of Toews, Brandon Saad, and Dominik Kubalik, which torched the Oilers for 10 points in Saturday’s win, was held scoreless.

Special teams, the deciding factor in the first game, were muted in game two. The teams combined for six man-advantage goals Saturday, but on Monday Chicago was zero for four on the power play and Edmonton one for five.

Game three goes Wednesday night.