The M-V-P chants for Patrick Kane get a little louder with each big game he has and each Blackhawks victory these days. It’s that time of year.
The Hawks’ star winger was in the middle of it all on Monday night, with a goal and three assists for a four-point night in a 7-2 rout of the Toronto Maple Leafs before 21,767 at the United Center that snapped a three-game losing streak.
Kane’s big night kept him on a Hart Trophy pace. His 82 points are 14 better than second-place Jamie Benn of the Stars. His 34 goals are one behind league leader Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals. And his 48 assists are four behind Senators’ defenseman Erik Karlsson.
“It’s special. It kind of takes you back a second, just to listen to it and enjoy it,” said Kane, who was serenaded with the “MVP” chant during his on-ice post-game interview. “I don’t even know if I’m the MVP or our team. I think [Corey] Crawford’s had a great season. But to hear them say that and to hear the support is definitely pretty cool.”
Kane was just part of a dominant effort by the Hawks (37-18-5) needed badly after losing three consecutive games at home last week. After Brandon Mashinter fired a wrist shot past James Reimer for a 1-0 lead just 2:33 into the game, Kane assisted on Andrew Shaw’s power-play goal in front that made it 2-0; had a secondary assist on Brent Seabrook’s power-play goal that made it 3-0; fed Artemi Panarin with a nifty pass for a goal that made it 4-0; then scored on a mini-breakaway off a pass from Artem Anisimov to make it 5-0 at 4:51 of the third period.
It was a night for rejuvenation. The Hawks, playing without Marian Hossa, who is out for at least two weeks with a lower-body injury, were 3-for-5 on the power play, 3-for-4 on the penalty kill — allowing only a garbage goal that made it 7-2 with 4:52 to play. Teuvo Teravainen and Viktor Svedberg also scored goals. And Scott Darling stopped the first 31 shots — including a spectacular sprawling glove save on a point-blank shot by Nick Spaling in the second period when the Hawks were up 3-0 — and 35 of 37 overall.
“Better,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Great start — something we really didn’t have in any of those [previous three] games. Obviously the power play was very good. I still think we could be better, but there were some real positives.”
For all the goals the Hawks scored, Darling’s save on Spaling was the play of the night.
“It was unbelievable,” Shaw said. “It’s nice to have Darling come in and play such great hockey. You see how hard he works and for him to be rewarded and make a big-time save like that — it’ll be in the highlights tomorrow, that’s for sure.
“It was a quick scramble out front and the puck shot out to a guy right in the slot,” Darling said. “I went to push to my right and I clearly whiffed. So that’s why I had to desperately dive across. I was lucky to get a glove on it.”
It can’t be ignored that the Hawks were facing the right team at the right time. The Maple Leafs (20-26-9) are in the formative stages under first-year coach Mike Babcock. And struggling. They are 4-11-2 in their last 17 games.
But Kane, who knows as well as anyone the impact of confidence in the NHL no matter what the circumstance, was having none of it.
“It’s tough to win in the NHL,” he said. “It’s not like many other professional leagues where you can look at an opponent and say it’s an easy opponent. On any given night any team can win in this league. We know that. We knew coming into this game we didn’t want to take this team lightly. I thought we did a good job of that.”
The trick — and one the Hawks have pulled off before — is to parlay the momentum of a rout of a struggling team into a big run against better teams. Nine of the Hawks’ next 10 opponents currently are in the playoffs — starting with the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. The Ranger are 5-1-1 in their last seven games. Henrik Lundqvist is 6-1-0 in his last seven starts.
“We’ve got some good teams we’re facing,” Kane said. “We’re going into New York — they’re playing well lately. They haven’t given up many goals. Lundqvist has been hot. Should be a good test there. I think we’re excited going to MSG and excited about playing there.
“Any time you score that many goals in this league, it’s going to be good for confidence, good for the team and hopefully we can build off it a little bit — no matter who we’re playing against.”