CHICAGO – As Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane finished juking four Minnesota defenders by lifting a sweet backhander over Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov’s left shoulder — barely a minute after the Wild tied the score 2-2 the third period Friday — the forward turned to the crowd and screamed, “Showtime!”
Perhaps that wasn’t a statement so much as a command. And as requested, the Blackhawks followed through with two more goals in the final minutes of regulation, knocking off the Wild 5-2 in Game 1. Neither of them compared with Kane’s initial magic.
“That’s a beautiful goal and would be a highlight of probably any one of our careers, but Kaner’s done that probably 10 times,” Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “It’s old hat for him.”
Common, yes, but the goal wasn’t anything ordinary. In fact, nothing about Kane’s performance in the playoffs has been.
Going back to last postseason, Kane has registered 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists), and has eight points through seven games in these playoffs while pacing the league in goals with five.
The seven-year veteran’s scoring is as consistent as it is timely. Each of Kane’s past four game-winning goals in the postseason has come in multi-goal performances — including Game 1 against the Wild this year.
“It’s not something that’s that surprising, but at the end of a big game, aside from the goal being a nice one, it was a big goal for us,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “It changed the game and for him to score a goal like that at that time was pretty huge.”
As much as the Wild would like to take away Kane’s time and space with the puck, the beauty of his game comes from an ability to negate those situations. Instead of dishing off a pass to teammate, or dumping the puck into the zone, Kane finds lanes that don’t seem open until he breaks his way through.
Kane showed that off most notably during overtime of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2010 when he used his body to shield a defender and slid the puck past Flyers’ goalie Michael Leighton to give the Blackhawks their first championship in 49 years.
Even without the puck, Kane’s vision enables him to sneak away from the play and find an opening for a one-timer. That was the case for much of Game 1, as Kane positioned himself behind the play, and fanned on multiple opportunities to rip a shot into an otherwise empty net.
By not finishing those chances, Kane seemed invisible for the first 45 minutes of regulation.
“He’s always making plays like that,” Toews said. “Plays that you don’t see unless you’re watching the game that don’t come out because it doesn’t go in.”
The law of averages finally caught up with him as Kane sneaked in behind Wild defenseman Nate Prosser during the third period, and put away an easy tap-in off a feed from Blackhawks winger Ben Smith at the point for his second goal in eight minutes.
Wild winger Nino Niederreiter said slowing down Kane requires a similar effort to the way they treated Colorado forward Nathan MacKinnon in the first round — although he also danced his way around four Minnesota defenders before beating Bryz- galov’s blocker in that series.
Still, Wild coach Mike Yeo doesn’t want his team to get distracted by No. 88 in red.
“We talked about this many times in the last series as well when you’re playing against players like that,” Yeo said. “Where you have to be careful is that you don’t start to focus completely on them. We have a way that we’re supposed to play, and we have a way that we believe will be effective and successful if we go out and play it as long as we’re able to stay with it for 60 minutes.”