By Adam Hoge-
LOS ANGELES (CBS) Whether it was following their Game 3 loss Tuesday, after practice Wednesday, or while preparing for Game 4 Thursday at the fancy Beverly Wilshire Hotel, head coach Joel Quenneville made one thing clear:
The Blackhawks had to get the puck to Patrick Kane.
Maybe Quenneville just threw something at the wall in the second period Thursday night at the Staples Center when he moved Kane up a line with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell, but it stuck and went along way towards the Blackhawks’ 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings.
“Sometimes you’re doing it just to change things,” Quenneville said after the game. “We were behind. I still didn’t mind the way we were playing at that point of the game. Maybe you get one, and we did.”
More specifically, Kane did — even if he stole the goal from Bickell.
“I think the biggest thing was just trying to get the puck any way I could, skate with it, feel into the game, no matter how that was,” Kane said.
In this case, it was just going towards the net and poking in a Bickell deflection that was already headed across the goal line.
“I told Bicksy I was kind of sorry I stole it from him,” Kane admitted.
Hey, whatever works. It was Kane’s first goal in eight games and it clearly got him going. From that point on, he was all over the ice — most noticeably backchecking frequently.
The goal came at a crucial time too. Inside a building the Kings had not lost in since March 23 against the Canucks, Kane’s stolen goal tied it at 2-2 with 1:39 left in the second period. Then, just 1:10 in the third, Marian Hossa gave the Blackhawks the lead with an absolute firecracker past Jonathan Quick.
Naturally, Hossa was on the other side of Quenneville’s decision to play Kane with Toews and Bickell as he moved down to play with Michal Handzus and Patrick Sharp.
From there, the forwards chipped in defensively to help ease the loss of Duncan Keith who was suspended for Game 4. The Blackhawks held the Kings to just two third period shots to end the Kings’ 15-game home winning streak and take a 3-1 series lead back to Chicago for Game 5 Saturday night.
“That was probably one of the best periods we have played (defensively),” goaltender Corey Crawford said. “I don’t think there was one good scoring chance they had in the slot or in front of the net.”
They did it without Keith. They did it with Sheldon Brookbank filling in with a minus-2 in just 6:50 of ice time. And they did it without Crawford playing at his highest level.
But that’s what happens when everyone — including a missing star like Kane — steps up their game to bounce back with more energy and a greater pace against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Give credit to Quenneville for making the change with Kane and getting him a faster linemate in Toews to get utilize his speed more. Alongside the slower Handzus, Kane was being held back and not coming up the ice with speed. That changed Thursday night.
“Sometimes you switch it up, play with different players, it works out,” Kane said.
It certainly did work. And now the Blackhawks are just one win away from the Stanley Cup Final.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, Blackhawks, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHoge and read more of his columns here.