ST. LOUIS — So much for the rust factor.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, both coming off an extended layoff while recovering from an injury, were factors from the opening period in the Blackhawks’ playoff opener against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night at Scottrade Center.
Toews, who did not play in the final six regular-season games because of an upper-body injury, had two assists and Kane, who missed the final 12 games with a sprained knee, scored a goal as the Blackhawks took a 3-2 lead after one period.
They were never better than when the collaborated on a tie-breaking goal as the Hawks were completing a penalty kill for the 3-2 lead with 1:36 left in the period.
It a perfect example of the anticipation and teamwork that makes both players among the best in the NHL, Kane peeled off into the offensive zone as the Blues were about to lose possession in the Hawks’ zone. Toews gained control of the puck in his end and fired a pinpoint stretch pass to Kane at the blue line. Kane did the rest, beating Ryan Miller for the tie-breaking goal.
Toews also had a secondary assist, passing to Brandon Saad, whose cross-ice pass led to Johnny Oduya’s goal from inside the left faceoff circle that tied the game 1-1 with 8:46 left in the first period.
Both players said they felt more rested and energized after sitting out.
“I feel great and I have a lot of energy, not only physically but mentally,’’ Toews said. “We’re all excited to play our first playoff game. Should be a lot of fun to get back at it.’’
Regardless of the outcome, the opener against the Blues was a significantly stronger effort than previous playoff openers.
“The last couple of practices we’ve had are probably some of the best we’ve had all year,’’ Toews said. “You can definitely tell that the guys are ready to go. It shows when we’re flying around, having fun, all the guys are laughing and at the same time we’re focused and ready to play best hockey we’ve played all year.’’
Though the Hawks have the best road playoff record in the NHL over the previous four seasons (16-12), they came into the game having lost the road opener in seven consecutive series.
“Maybe in the past we’ve been feeling out the other team a little bit too much,’’ Kane said, “instead of just playing the game, playing our style and try to take it to them.
“We can take that in Game 1 and Game 2 to get ourselves back to playing the way we’re used to on the road. It seems like it’s been a successful part of our game for a long time here — how well we’ve played on the road. I don’t think anyone was really worried [that] we weren’t starting at home.’’