The Golden Knights draw their first Original Six opponent in the playoffs thanks to this season’s one-of-a-kind format.
The Blackhawks were last in the Central Division at the pause and sellers at the February trade deadline, but benefited from the expanded field to reach the postseason.
Chicago then showed its championship pedigree during the qualifying round with a four-game upset of Edmonton on the Oilers’ home ice.
The Blackhawks won three Stanley Cups from 2010 to 2015 and are led by right wing Patrick Kane (84 points) and center Jonathan Toews (60 points).
The Knights went 2-1 against Chicago, using a strong defensive effort in both victories.
Here’s a look at the regular-season matchups:
Knights 2, Blackhawks 1 (SO)
On the second game of a back to back, the Knights turned in a clunker for two periods.
But defenseman Nick Holden scored the tying goal with 1:33 remaining in regulation before Shea Theodore and Jonathan Marchessault scored in the shootout for the Knights.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury kept the Knights in the game with 31 saves and earned career victory No. 446. He moved into seventh place on the NHL all-time list, passing Terry Sawchuk.
Fleury denied Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat in the shootout after Jonathan Toews scored in the first round.
“I think we owe him a team dinner,” Theodore said.
Robin Lehner had 16 of his 33 stops in the third period and overtime for the Blackhawks, including a two-pad-stack save late in overtime to prevent Max Pacioretty from scoring the winner.
Blackhawks center Kirby Dach, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft, netted his first career goal.
Blackhawks 5, Knights 3
The Knights’ first loss to Chicago in eight all-time meetings featured two unsuccessful penalty shots and a momentum-turning video replay.
Alex Tuch, who returned after a four-game absence, appeared to put the Knights ahead 3-1 with 3:49 gone in the second period. But officials reviewed the play and ruled Tuch’s shot hit the crossbar and didn’t cross the goal line.
The Blackhawks tied the game 20 seconds later on a goal by defenseman Calvin de Haan and took the lead through Erik Gustafsson at 4:54 of the second.
William Carrier and William Karlsson staked the Knights to a 2-0 lead 6:29 into the first before the Blackhawks responded with five consecutive goals.
The Knights finished with a 72-44 advantage in total shot attempts but were baited into playing a wide-open game that favored Chicago.
“We put too many chips all-in,” Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “I thought we did too many things where we were gambling on plays … and sometimes you’ve got to live to fight another day.”
Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome each had a goal and two assists and Kirby Dach had a goal and an assist for Chicago.
Knights 5, Blackhawks 1
Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury returned from his personal leave and stopped 28 of 29 shots in his first start after his father, Andre, died Nov. 27.
Blackhawks rookie Dominik Kubalik spoiled the Hollywood ending when he scored on a power play with 27 seconds remaining to break up the shutout.
“It took me a few minutes there to get going,” Fleury said. “But the more the game went on, the better I felt. More calm and relaxed. … It was definitely more emotional.”
Reilly Smith finished with a goal and an assist in a three-goal second period, and defenseman Deryk Engelland scored his only goal of the season.
William Karlsson scored short-handed for his first goal in 11 games in addition to third-period goals from Max Pacioretty and Ryan Reaves.
Knights forward Valentin Zykov had two shots on goal in 15:35 of ice time in his first game back from a 20-game suspension for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.