Blackhawks among winners as NHL playoffs begin

Rookie wing Dominik Kubalik had two goals and three assists to help the Chicago Blackhawks beat the host Edmonton Oilers 6-4 on Saturday in Game 1 of a Western Conference best-of-five qualifying round series.

The game was played in front of tarps, massive video screens and empty seats at Rogers Place — which is hosting 12 West teams as the NHL completes the 2019-20 season.

Kubalik scored twice in the second period, the first goal chasing starter Mike Smith from the Oilers net (five goals on 23 shots), and the second getting past Mikko Koskinen to make it 6-2.

“We got scored on in the first couple of minutes but we came back pretty quick,” Kubalik said. “I felt really good, everything went my way, so obviously it’s nice but it’s just the first game. We’ve got to keep going.”

Before the game, Minnesota’s Matt Dumba — whose team opens its playoff series with Vancouver on Sunday in Edmonton — became the first NHL player to kneel during the U.S. national anthem. He knelt at center ice while fellow Black players Malcolm Subban of Chicago and Darnell Nurse of Edmonton, who each stood with a hand on one of his shoulders.

“Racism is everywhere, and we need to fight against it,” Dumba said. “We will fight against injustice and fight for what is right. … Hockey is a great game, but it could be a whole lot greater, and it starts with all of us.”

Islanders 2, Panthers 1: Semyon Varlamov stopped 27 shots as New York opened an Eastern Conference qualifying round series with a win over Florida in Toronto.

Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who missed his team’s final four games before the season was paused March 12, stopped 26 shots.

Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2: Sebastian Aho had a goal and an assist as Carolina beat New York in an East opener in Toronto.

The Hurricanes had lost five straight to the Rangers, including being swept in their four-game regular-season series.

Canadiens 3, Penguins 2: Jeff Petry scored at 13:57 of overtime as Montreal beat Pittsburgh in an East series opener in Toronto.

Briefly: The top four seeds in the East and West are not involved in the qualifying round. Instead, they will play in a round-robin round — the East teams in Toronto, and the West teams in Edmonton — to determine each conference’s top four seeds for the first round, which will begin Aug. 11. … TSN, a Canadian website, reported that there have been no positive coronavirus tests for NHL players who entered the bubble cities last weekend.

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