Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane make quick impact in opener
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter April 17, 2014 10:28PM
Updated: April 18, 2014 12:36AM
ST. LOUIS — Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane wanted more hockey, and they got it.
Eager to return to the ice after missing significant time with injuries, Toews and Kane probably got more ice time than they bargained for in the Blackhawks’ 4-3 triple-overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.
But both made an immediate impact. Toews, who did not play in the final six regular-season games because of an upper-body injury, had two assists and Kane, who missed the final 12 games because of a sprained knee, scored a goal as the Blackhawks took a 3-2 lead after one period.
Toews in particular had an eventful evening that got rougher as the game ensued. He was slashed in the ankle by Steven Ott in the first overtime. And he was drilled into the boards by Ryan Reaves in the second overtime — a play that drew blood on Toews’ face and a roughing penalty on Reaves.
Toews appeared shaken if not injured after the hit by Reaves, but returned to the ice moments later and finished the period. Toews had two assists and was a plus-one in 32:11 of ice time. He had four shots on goal and won 21 of 31 faceoffs.
Kane and Toews were never better than when the collaborated on a tie-breaking goal as the Hawks were completing a penalty kill for the 3-2 lead with 1:36 left in the period.
It a perfect example of the anticipation and teamwork that makes both players among the best in the NHL, Kane peeled off into the offensive zone as the Blues were about to lose possession in the Hawks’ zone. Toews gained control of the puck in his end and fired a pinpoint stretch pass to Kane at the blue line. Kane did the rest, beating Ryan Miller for the tie-breaking goal.
Toews also had a secondary assist, passing to Brandon Saad, whose cross-ice pass led to Johnny Oduya’s goal from inside the left faceoff circle that tied the game at 1 with 8:46 left in the first period.
Both players said they felt more rested and energized after sitting out.
“I feel great and I have a lot of energy, not only physically but mentally,’’ Toews said. “We’re all excited to play our first playoff game. Should be a lot of fun to get back at it.’’
Regardless of the outcome, the opener against the Blues was a significantly stronger effort than previous playoff openers.
“The last couple of practices we’ve had are probably some of the best we’ve had all year,’’ Toews said. “You can definitely tell that the guys are ready to go. It shows when we’re flying around, having fun, all the guys are laughing and at the same time we’re focused and ready to play best hockey we’ve played all year.’’