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.