TAMPA, Fla. —The good thing about Joel Quenneville’s nuclear option is that he can always unpush the button.
It could come to that after the pairing of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane with Brandon Saad on the Hawks’ top line struggled again in the Hawks’ 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night at Amalie Arena.
The Toews-Kane-Saad line produced scoring opportunities but no goals. Only after Quenneville pushed Kane back to the second line and moved Marian Hossa back up to the top line did they score, with Toews assisting on Brent Seabrook’s goal that tied the game 3-3 early in the third period.
“They had some great looks there,” Quenneville said. “A couple of really good quality chances in the first period, had some good stuff in the second. They’re dangerous.”
So why the change?
“Just got a little more balance off it,” Quenneville said. “We scored right away. Then we lost some momentum.”
Toews of course was unbowed.
“We had a lot of puck possession, but we just didn’t quite get to the inside as much early in the game,” Toews said. “So Hoss jumps on our line and we find a way to score. Sometimes a quick change like that will make things click.”
Toews never backs down in the face of adversity or an unimpressive scoresheet. Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen and Seabrook scored the Hawks’ three goals in Game 2. Third-liners Antoine Vermette and Teravainen scored the goal in the Game 1 victory.
But it’s early.
“We’ll keep working for that offense. We know it’s going to come,” Toews said. “We had some production from all over the first couple of games. It’s not something you want to get frustrated over. You just have to stay patient and keep telling yourself you will score goals when it really matters.”
It’s pretty tough to quarrel with the Hawks’ captain on that one. He’s built a reputation as one of the biggest winners in hockey on his ability to come through when it really matters. And with the series tied 1-1 and the Hawks in control of home-ice advantage, that time is not yet here.
But for now, the reality is that Toews is getting shut down by 21-year-old Cedric Paquette, who added to the indignity by scoring the first goal of the game with a nifty move on Saad that any of the Hawks’ stars would be proud of.
“This is a team sport and Cedrick’s been given an assignment to do something for the team. It’s been fantastic to watch,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “You get this far in the playoffs, you need guy that sacrifice themselves and that’s all that kid has done. He’s doing one heck of a job.”
Paquette and forwards J.T. Brown and Ryan Callahan are winning the battle against Toews, Saad and Kane/Hossa. And doing it with nothing fancy, Toews said.
“They’re working hard. They’re playing good hockey — smart, defensive hockey,” Toews said. “We’ve just got to stay with it. Saad had a great chance 2-on-1 early in the game. I had a great chance where it bounced right off my stick — a great set-up by Kaner. So one of those go in and maybe you’re not asking those questions as much.”
The unspoken message is one the Hawks take to heart and the Lightning should not ignore. When Toews says he’s close, he usually is.
“We know we’re getting chances,” Toews said, “and sometimes it just takes one or two to go in and it makes a difference. That’s how we’ll go about it and continue to keep our confidence.”