CHICAGO | Is this becoming a playoff staple?
The Blackhawks get back on their heels and get dramatically out-shot in the middle of the game. Then a star, either Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane, turns on the jets to bail it out in the third period.
It was Kane’s turn Friday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Minnesota Wild. Just when it appeared the Hawks were sagging a bit, kept in the game by superb Corey Crawford goaltending, he struck with two goals to provide the difference in the Hawks’ 5-2 victory.
Kane has scored so many late clutch goals in his stellar career, including the Stanley Cup overtime clincher in 2010, that the feats have become almost expected. But he claimed he never takes his role for granted.
“I think you take every game as a new challenge,” Kane said. “You try to show up every night, especially in the playoffs. These games are so important, you can’t do something one night, then sit on it and relax and be happy with yourself. So you try to get better every night.
“So it was nice to get a couple tonight, especially in the third when it was 2-2. But this one’s over.”
Moments after the Wild tied the game early in the third period, Kane displayed the kind of artistry for which he is famed. He took a pass just past the blue line, zagged right, skated around the Wild defense and fired upstairs to beat goalie Ilya Bryzgalov at 8:22.
“I got the puck in the neutral zone and was just trying to see what my options were,” Kane said. “I tried to take it in on my backhand and get a shot off, and it went in.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Kane’s point guard-style moves are special.
“Kaner scored one of those goals that not many guys in the league could even try or get it done,” he said.
Kane appeared to yell “Showtime!” after the go-ahead goal.
“Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m saying. I was pretty pumped up after that one. So you kind of get into your own little world.”
Then, showing another of his many skills, Kane took a relay from Patrick Sharp and Ben Smith, and potted it in from the left side, getting Bryzgalov leaning the wrong way.
Coming alive for the second straight time in the playoffs, Bryan Bickell matched Kane with a pair of goals, both opening and closing the scoring, the latter via an empty-net goal with just under three minutes to go.
The aggressive Wild required Hawks goalie Corey Crawford to perform at his acrobatic best. Crawford spent much of the night doing splits, diving or whipping his stick to ward off pucks to make 30 saves.
In a strange repetition of the clinching Game 6 of the quarterfinals against the Blues, the Hawks were again outshot by the same 17-3 margin in the second. The Wild outshot the Hawks overall 32-22.
“They’ve got an underrated lineup,” Crawford said. “They’ve got a bunch of guys that can score. They play a fast game. A quick, turnover game. They can turn the puck over pretty quick and come back the other way.”
The Wild tied the game with two goals in the third, including a Clayton Stoner score that was awarded after a replay review on a puck going off a Hawk’s skate.
Marian Hossa got revenge on Wild defenseman Jonas Brolin, who smacked him in the lip, drawing blood, in the first period.
Brolin got a four-minute minor for high sticking, enabling Bickell to tally his first goal with an assist by Hossa. Brolin was nailed with another high-sticking infraction midway through the second. This time Hossa scored his second playoff goal.