Hat-trick Kane leads Blackhawks past Leafs for 10th straight win


Hat-trick Kane leads Blackhawks past Leafs for 10th straight win

By Jessica Patton

Patrick Kane could do no wrong.

The All Star led the Blackhawks to a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre, their 10th straight victory and handing the home team their fourth straight loss.

Kane, who netted the first regular-season hat trick of his career and added an assist, eclipsed his total point production from last season of 64 and now sits atop the scoring table with 67. He came into Friday's game 10 points ahead of second-place Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars.

The winger, who has two playoff hat tricks under his belt, said after the game that though he’s glad to finally get his first regular-season one, he wouldn’t trade those two from the postseason for anything.

“I think I’ve had a few two-goal games, but I guess it just never really happened. But it’s nice to get the first one.

"I think I have to give a lot of credit to my line-mates, sometimes you can say you're looking to shoot more but sometimes they create more opportunities for yourself to get in positions to shoot.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Joel Quenneville has long been a player's coach]

Scott Darling, who gave Corey Crawford a rest for the night, had a 28-save game including a sprawling glove stop on Leafs forward Brad Boyes to keep the game 3-1 late in the third period. His shutout was foiled by Morgan Rielly, who rifled in his fifth goal of the season 3:47 into the third.

Kane’s game-winning second goal came on the power play after the 27-year-old took a Matt Hunwick stick to the face. He repaid the hit by taking a cross-ice feed from Artemi Panarin and burying it from a sharp angle past Leafs netminder James Reimer, who made 25 saves.

“It was an unfortunate play,” Kane said when asked about the incident. “I am pretty good friends with Hunwick, so I don’t know what happened there. I was trying to go and get the puck and finish my check, and I got a stick in the face.

“It was nice to come back out and capitalize and more importantly give us the two-goal lead heading into the break.”

The Blackhawks came into the game as the NHL's best road team on the power play, with a 27.1-percent success rate and continued the hot streak, netting two more on the man advantage.

Kane, the Buffalo native, opened the scoring at 13:07 of the second when he buried the second rebound off a Panarin shot from the circle. Reimer made the original save and another one off of Duncan Keith but couldn’t control the rebound that landed right on Kane’s stick.

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Andrew Shaw thought he had the first goal of the night and his ninth of the season at 12:07 of the first when he scored off his own rebound only to have it called back on a challenge by Leafs coach Mike Babcock.

According to a statement released by the NHL, it was determined by the linesman after reviewing all replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations that Marian Hossa was offside prior to the goal leading to the call getting overturned.

The Blackhawks put the nail in the coffin early in the third when Leafs forward Roman Polak took the team’s sixth straight penalty and joined Nazim Kadri, who was already in the box. The goal was an exact replica of the Blackhawks’ second goal, only this time Kane fed Panarin for his 16th.

Leafs forward Morgan Rielly ruined the shutout for Darling, streaking in on the right side and rifling a shot through the netminder for his fifth to make it 3-1.

Kane secured the win and his hat-trick goal, an empty-net score that sent most of the crowd packing.

“It might be my fault,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said when asked why it’s taken Kane so long to record a regular-season hat trick. “I don’t play him much when we get leads like that. He had a shot at it the other day and missed the empty net. So it’s nice to see him finally get one.

“I had no clue it was his first (regular-season) hat trick, I would have bet he had more than a handful.”

Next up for the Blackhawks is a rematch back at home against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday.

Why Ryan Hartman is betting on himself going into another contract year with Predators


Why Ryan Hartman is betting on himself going into another contract year with Predators

Ryan Hartman has been through this before. Back in December of 2012, he sustained a torn labrum in his right shoulder but played through it because the Plymouth Whalers were in the middle of a playoff run. He waited until the offseason to have it surgically repaired and was cleared for contact just in time for him to attend his first training camp with the Blackhawks in September of 2013.

This time was a little different though.

Hartman had been acquired by the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline in exchange for prospect Victor Ejdsell and a 2018 first- and fourth-round pick — a hefty price to pay — in hopes of serving as an additional spark plug for a Predators team looking to load up for a second consecutive Stanley Cup run.

So when Hartman was brushed by Nathan MacKinnon along the boards, lost his footing and fell on his left shoulder late in Game 4 of the first round against Colorado, he immediately knew something was up.

"It didn't feel great at all," said Hartman, who went straight to the dressing room and had team doctors pop it back into place. "I finished the game and was able to finish playoffs in like a modified sling, which sucked to play with, but it's playoffs. It's one of those things where there are many guys playing through injuries and I was one of them."

Hartman, who's been rehabbing and training in Chicago, received the green light to fully participate in hockey-related drills last Monday but was advised to delay his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut for one more week just to err on the side of caution. On Wednesday, he got back into a game-type setting and "felt good" after 50 minutes of action going up against former teammates Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane.

Now he can fully focus on this upcoming season and amp up his on-ice training to a level he couldn't get to while recovering from shoulder surgery with training camp a month away.

Hartman was a restricted free agent this summer and recently re-signed with the Predators on a one-year deal worth $875,000. Clearly, he's betting on himself to bounce back to his rookie year form when he scored 19 goals and cash out on a larger paycheck down the line, even though he had multiple longer-term offers from the Predators.

"Yeah we talked, [GM David Poile] wants me to be there, I want to be there, we have a good relationship," Hartman said. "Obviously, he gave up a lot of stuff to take me and sees me in the future of the team and I see myself there too. There's a lot of little things that go into negotiations — if it's money wise or length — and there was a various amount [of offers] that was thrown out on both sides. With no [arbitration] rights, the best thing for me and my team was to bet on myself, take the year and go from there next year."

With that comes the pressure of having to earn another contract for the second straight year, which is also risky considering he's coming off an injury that sidelined him all summer. But that's just the way he wants it.

"Either way I want to play my best, if I have a contract or not for long-term," Hartman said. "There is the benefit of having security with long-term deals, but you see guys, in history, that sign these deals and maybe have a year or two of, not really being complacent, but just feeling satisfied. I don't like the feeling of being satisfied. I'm not saying that's why I took that contract over another contract, but it was a good month and a half of debating one of the other three [offers]. My family and my agent, we chose this was the best for me and the team as well."

It's easy to see why the Predators are happy with this deal, too. Hartman is better suited to play in a bottom-six role on a really good team but has the ability to play in the top-six if needed. A strong season out of him and they'll be happy to reward him with a longer-term offer next summer. It also means he'd be making an impact while making less than $1 million, and every contending team needs those contributions from their depth players.

Pull up the Predators' CapFriendly page and you'll notice generous contract after generous contract for a majority of their players, particularly their core group. Look no further than Ryan Ellis, who signed an eight-year extension on Tuesday that carries a cap hit of $6.25 million. He certainly left money on the table but elected to take less to follow the lead of everyone else in Nashville because the ultimate goal is to keep the band together.

"You look at Sidney Crosby, one of the best players in the league, isn't even making close to the most money in the league and that's a reason why they've won two Cups," Hartman said. "They have space, maybe not necessarily as much as the Preds do, but Poile's good at that, he's good at stressing winning, the importance of winning, and keeping a team together. Sometimes when you go year to year losing four or five players every summer, it takes a toll having to introduce yourself to new guys all the time. Keeping the same group is really beneficial."

The Predators won't have to do much introducing next month. They're essentially rolling back the same team that arguably would've reached the Stanley Cup Final if they had gotten past the Winnipeg Jets. Hartman will be an important part of that group, only this time he'll be there from the start.

"That's what I'm really excited for," he said. "It's tough coming in [halfway through the season], it kind of feels like ... it's your first time getting called up with the new team. You're adjusting, you're trying not to make a mistake, trying to earn a spot, per se, earn the respect of your peers, so having that and going through a playoff run and a Game 7, if you go through a Game 7 with anybody, it's a bond. The stuff you fight through and you play for each other, to be able to go through a training camp and the ups and downs throughout the whole season, it's going to be exciting. I fell in love with the group for the short time I was there and I'm excited to be there at the start of training camp."

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 4: Roster overview

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 4: Roster overview

In a 10-part series, we look back at the 10-year anniversary of the 2008-09 season, the start of the Blackhawks dynasty.

Starting a dynasty means you have to identify a group of core players to build your team around. Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews were those guys, along with Marian Hossa, who joined that mix later on.

You also need a mixture of young talent and strong veterans to fill out the depth to become successful. That's exactly what the Blackhawks had at the beginning of their dynasty and throughout.

On the first day of NHL free agency in 2008, the Blackhawks inked All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell to an eight-year deal, which solidified Chicago as a destination players wanted to commit to long term. That same year, Kris Versteeg emerged as the Blackhawks' third Calder Trophy candidate in two years, Martin Havlat and Andrew Ladd set a career high in points with 77 and 49, respectively, while youngsters Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer and Dustin Byfuglien began to make a name for themselves as valuable pieces to the puzzle.

"Real good group of guys," Joel Quenneville said on Oct. 18, 2008. "I can say that it's the first time I walked in the room where, wow, I was impressed."

Six of the Blackhawks' Top 10 scorers in 2008-09 were aged 23 or younger. The average age for the other four? 27. The youth movement was real and they all contributed in a big way.