Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunion sparks scoring surge

Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews (second right) celebrates his goal against the Bruins with...

Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews (second right) celebrates his goal against the Bruins with teammate Patrick Kane (second left), during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final at TD Garden in Boston, June 19, 2013. (BRIAN SNYDER/Reuters)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:43 AM ET

BOSTON - His team has lost the last two games of the Stanley Cup final, so, true to the ageless code of the NHL playoffs, Chicago Blackhaws coach Joel Quenneville must make changes.

Heading into Game 4 Wednesday night, with his team down 2-1 in the series to the Boston Bruins, Quenneville reunited stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane with big winger Bryan Bickell.

He also shortened his bench, dropping down to five defencemen (Nick Leddy played only three shifts through regulation time and none in the third period).

Quenneville leaned heavily on his reunited stars – Kane had played the most of any Hawks forward with 24 minutes and 19 seconds of ice time – and they helped propel the second period into a spectacular demonstration of what hockey can be when the speed and the skill of the best players in the world lay waste to systems and leave coaches cringing.

Quenneville’s moves helped in a 6-5 overtime win, ended on a slap shot by Hawks defenceman Brent Seabrook, Kane drawing one of the assists and Toews screening in front in a battle with big Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara.

“We went to the well and I’m sure they were excited about returning together,” said Quenneville after the game. He was asked if maybe he waited too long to put them back together.

“Maybe it looks like I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said, drawing laughs.

“I like that line. Big picture getting reunited, they seem to have some chemistry. Scoring certainly helps, but, you know, got a little bit of difference, everybody on that line brings something different to the party. Bicks off the rush can shoot. Kaner has possession. Johnny gets through. It’s a nice combination. So it was nice to see them back and productive, too.

“Johnny had the puck more today. He was more friendly with it.”

Both Toews and Kane scored in that crazy second period – their first goals of the final and, for Toews, just his second of these playoffs – as the teams combined for five goals. That would have been the number of goals scored over three games in the days before the 2005 NHL lockout and the rule changes that came with its end.

Quenneville was the first to flinch between the coaches, opting to split Toews and Kane up before the final even started. The pair had had success in the previous series with Kane scoring a hat trick to help eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

But faced with the imposing shutdown shadow of towering Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara – who helped the Bruins hold the Pittsburgh Penguins dynamic duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin pointless in the Eastern Conference final – Quenneville opted to split his stars up so Chara would only be able to snuff one of them.

Toews played most of Game 3 in the company of fourth-line wingers Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger and the Hawks were shut out.

The Bickell-Toews-Kane line got the better of the matchup with Chara in Game 4. Chara was on the ice for five of the six Chicago goals and wound up minus-3 on the night. Toews battled for, and won, body position against Chara in front to screen Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask on the game-winner 9:51 into overtime.

It was the conclusion to a spectacularly entertaining hockey game.

It wound up not being a good night for goalies or the coaches, who saw the game spin wonderfully out of their grasp for long stretches.

For pretty much everybody else?

Marvelous.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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