CHICAGO — They had been quiet, the giants of the Blackhawks. They had been subdued, their goal-scoring brilliance in the Western Conference finals a mere memory. And then things changed in Game 4. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were reunited and reignited, with Kane returning to the form that saw him earn a hat trick to finish off the Kings.
The Blackhawks needed Kane to produce again on Saturday night, and he was at his best. The winger swept up two rebounds, taking advantage of broken sticks and loose pucks, and flicking them past Tuukka Rask.
Kane put the Blackhawks up by two goals, scoring in the first and second periods, as Chicago led by two for the second straight game, going on to take Game 5, 3-1, for a 3-2 series lead.
Over the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final, Kane had managed one measly point. He picked up the pace, adding a goal and an assist in Game 4, after Chicago coach Joel Quenneville put Kane and Toews back on the same line, a ploy he tries when the Blackhawks offense has stalled.
And Kane certainly has started back up.
“It’s funny how he keeps showing up in big games, whether it’s the Olympics, the Stanley Cup playoffs,” Patrick Sharp said. “He likes to score on those big stages.”
The first goal came at 17:27 in the first period, an even-strength effort that came on a rebound off a Johnny Oduya shot. Kane picked up a loose puck and jammed it past Rask into the net after the puck had shattered Dennis Seidenberg’s stick, leaving the Bruins vulnerable.
With 5:13 gone in the second, Kane got his second. Bryan Bickell put a shot on net, got his own rebound, and circled around behind the goal. Bickell got the puck to an open Kane and he buried a high shot.
“Kane scored three goals in the last two games, and he’s very good at kind of finding those quiet areas and sliding into the right spot,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “That’s why he’s a good player and scores a lot of goals.
“We just maybe have to have a little bit more awareness around our net because both goals were scored the same way.”
That was, in some ways, by design.
“I think one of the things on this team, you want to crash the net, and whether it’s bringing it back out and getting pucks there and then crashing it again, it seems to have worked the last couple of games,” Kane said.
“They’re a tough defensive team. You’re not going to get those chances often, so it was good to bury them. I think there’s still some ice for us to play with out there that we can make plays and try and get some shots on net.
“But I think the biggest thing on this goaltender, and this team defensively, is just to try to get to the net and pick up those rebounds.”
That was exactly what Kane did, his stick catching the puck at just the right moments, and giving the Blackhawks enough of a cushion to withstand the Bruins increased offensive pressure in the third.
“Kaner has got high-end skill,” Quenneville said. “He’s dangerous with the puck, his anticipation without it offensively is high-end. I think reading off those guys in the offensive zone has been very effective for him.
“But guys that have that kind of innate skill of scoring and being a top player, they anticipate like the rest of us would like to.”
And then they act humble. As Kane put it, he was “in the right spot at the right time tonight on both goals.” Part of that, he said, was playing with Toews and Bickell, the space they create, the opportunities they create.
The opportunities that allowed him to create.
“He’s got string on the puck,” Bickell said. “If he’s dishing it off, he’s finding soft spots in front of the net. You see his two goals tonight, he was in the right spot at the right time. He’s got great sense and he can find open space.”
In that space, Kane is “dynamic,” as Duncan Keith said. He makes things happen. Like he did in Game 5, providing the first goal and the winning goal, providing the Blackhawks with the margin that put them one win away from the Cup.
“There’s no guy I’d rather have the puck going down the ice and following the play up with than him,” Keith said. “He’s just an unbelievable puck-handler. His poise and his patience and his ability to settle the puck down, make passes through guys’ legs.
“There’s a handful of guys that can do that in the league.”