CHICAGO — Patrick Kane tried to tell people his left knee felt fine and he was the same dangerous player as before, but it was time to show everybody.
And that time couldn’t come quickly enough for Chicago.
It arrived Wednesday night at the United Center in Game 4 against the Blues with the Blackhawks needing their stars to play like stars to even the series 2-2. So 11 minutes, 17 seconds into overtime, Kane glided down the left side of the ice, patiently sized up goalie Ryan Miller and saved the day like so many times before in his career.
“It’s fun scoring these kind of goals for sure,” Kane said with a familiar grin.
Kane scored it while bogged down by a bulky brace supporting the knee that caused him to miss the last several weeks of the regular season. But it felt hardly as heavy as the burden that would have weighed down the Hawks if they had blown this game after leading 2-0.
“Coming back from a month off, it’s going to take time,” said Kane, who had two goals and an assist. “But I thought this was coming. I felt it. It was inevitable.”
Inevitably, the Hawks feel invincible again after Kane came through in the clutch.
All’s well that ends well, but coach Joel Quenneville might want to put another meeting with Corey Crawford on the morning agenda. Only two days after responding to Quenneville’s unorthodox one-on-one chat with a shutout in Game 3, Crawford allowed two preventable goals in the final 69 seconds of the second period that turned a comfortable lead into a harrowing night.
Crawford showed the effects of the mini-meltdown when he gave up the Blues’ third goal with 7:34 left in regulation as Vladimir Tarasenko beat the goalie to his glove side on a shot he has to stop. That would have been the winner had Bryan Bickell not scored his first goal of the playoffs with 3:52 left that forced the series’ third overtime in four games.
“He battled back,” Quenneville said of Crawford.
So did the Blues.
Apparently nothing is safe in the NHL playoffs, not two-goal cushions on home ice or eardrums close to Quenneville on the Hawks bench. But it was hard to blame Quenneville for going ballistic after Blues center Maxim Lapierre scored with 3.1 seconds left in the second on a shot that sailed past Crawford’s glove, hit the post and bounced off the goalie’s body into the net. Coach Q was only yelling what the rest of Chicago was thinking. You can’t be serious. Not again.
Only 1:06 earlier, Tarasenko had beaten Crawford on a power play for the Blues’ first goal since Game 2. Funny how quickly pivotal players such as Crawford can go from heroes to villains — and vice versa — in the NHL playoffs.
Take Andrew Shaw, whose dumb penalty attacking super pest Steve Ott made a hockey city cringe. But at the 8:40 mark of the second period, Shaw retaliated the proper way with a backhand wraparound that scored a rare goal on the Hawks power play. It created a sense of relief the Hawks turned into momentum that resulted in a pretty Kane goal about eight minutes later. Up 2-0, the Hawks exhaled.
Which eventually let the Blues take a city’s breath away.
As close as this series has been, it should come as no surprise that TV ratings in St. Louis and Chicago have been as high as the scores have been low. But has anybody checked the numbers for the Grand Forks, N.D., market?
“I can promise you it’s an awful lot of fun to watch out here,” University of North Dakota hockey coach Dave Hakstol said over the phone before Game 4. “A lot of people are very proud.”
The pride stems from watching former UND player Jonathan Toews try to will the Hawks past former college teammate and linemate T.J. Oshie and the Blues. Toews and Oshie, Olympic stars for Canada and the U.S., respectively, came to the UND campus in 2005 as part of a 13-member recruiting class considered one of the school’s best.
“Johnny and Osh were part of a great group that says a lot about our program but more about the type of young men they are,” Hakstol said. “They’re both true to their personalities. Both came in as very young men who matured and were different characters who went about their business differently. They competed hard and they also competed with each other. But they both always took pride in playing the game the right way.”
Both still play for NHL teams that practice the same principles, teams similar in so many ways.
But only one woke up Thursday morning feeling in control of this series.
©2014 Chicago Tribune
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