Updated: May 26, 2014 6:35AM
It’s something of a running gag around the Blackhawks’ dressing room that Marian Hossa could spend a few years off the ice, do a quick side bend to loosen up, then hop over the boards and look like he never left.
For most players — even for the elite — it takes a little more time.
‘‘There’s guys in here that can come back and play amazing right away when they’re injured,’’ winger Patrick Kane said. ‘‘It’s something I’ve never really dealt with too much throughout my career, so it’s something you’ve kind of got to get used to and get better at.’’
Turns out, it took Kane all of three games.
Not that he looked bad in the first three games of the Hawks’ first-round series against the St. Louis Blues. He had a breakaway goal in Game 1 and somehow split the Blues’ defense with the puck on his backhand to create a golden scoring chance in Game 3. As Ben Smith said: ‘‘It’s Patrick Kane. You always just kind of expect something special to happen.’’
But it wasn’t until Game 4 on Wednesday that Kane truly looked like his old self again — dynamic and dominant, creative and confident, speedy and sneaky. He scored two goals, including the game-winner in overtime that evened the series 2-2. He also added an assist and created nine shot attempts.
‘‘It seemed like the third period and overtime, he took it to a whole other level,’’ said Smith, who centered Kane for most of the final two periods. ‘‘He really dominated that game. It seemed like only a matter of time before he was going to fire one in.’’
Kane said it was the best he had felt since the Blues’ Brenden Morrow fell on his left knee March 19, knocking him out for the final 12 games of the regular season. He admitted the rest created some rust, but considering how exhausted he looked and sounded before the injury — the short offseason, compressed regular season and Olympic schedule clearly took its toll — he seems fresher and faster than he was before it, knee brace be damned.
And while Kane showed flashes of the speed and skill that make him so dangerous in the first three games, he seemed to put it all
together for Game 4.
‘‘When he got on the board early in the second there, I think he just wasn’t thinking anymore,’’ center Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘He just went out and played. He was making things happen every time he got the puck. It was nice to see him play with that confidence. For him, the first couple of games maybe were an adjustment, missing the amount of time that he did, especially with the injury that he had. I think he’s feeling pretty comfortable right now, obviously, with the way he played last night.’’
It certainly bodes well for the Hawks as they head back to St. Louis, where they’re 0-4 this season, for Game 5. Kane’s game-
winner was his third postseason goal in overtime. Given that three of the four games between the Blues and Hawks in this postseason have gone to overtime, he might get another chance.
And with Kane in fine form physically and mentally, the Hawks no doubt will be looking for their biggest playmaker.
‘‘You just try to play off your
instincts and kind of have the feeling that you’re going to make things happen instead of waiting around,’’ Kane said. ‘‘That seems to be when I’m at my best.’’