LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Patrick Kane learned of his grandfather’s death shortly before game time, and he handled the pain in the only way he could imagine.
By playing his heavy heart out.
Kane had two goals and an assist, Nick Leddy had a goal and an assist, and the Chicago Blackhawks snapped their recent slump with a 5-3 victory over the struggling Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.
After scoring goals early and late in his first three-point game since Dec. 28, Kane choked up in the dressing room while thinking about his grandfather, Donald, who lived next door during his childhood in Buffalo.
“Just a tough day overall,” Kane said. “He was one of my great friends growing up. Just a really sad day. It was important to get the win, but any time you get someone taken away from you that’s so close to you, means so much, it’s tough to hear that right before the game, for sure.”
Kane pointed skyward after his first goal 1:02 into the game, coming out of the corner and beating U.S. Olympic teammate Jonathan Quick during a power play.
“You think about it a couple of times on the bench, but I was just trying to focus on the game tonight,” Kane said. “Just play well for him, I guess.”
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville didn’t learn about Kane’s extra burden until early in the game. Kane’s teammates praised him for his poise while mourning his loss.
“He’s a proud guy, and I think his grandfather meant a lot to him,” Quenneville said. “It was probably an emotional night for him, but he played an unbelievable game.”
Kane had plenty of help.
Marcus Kruger scored the tiebreaking goal on a double deflection in the second period for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Bryan Bickell also scored and Corey Crawford made 31 saves as Chicago swept the three-game season series between last season’s Western Conference finalists.
Kane warmed up for Sochi with his first multigoal game since Dec. 14, while Canadian Olympic counterparts Patrick Sharp and captain Jonathan Toews picked up two assists apiece for the Blackhawks, who had lost five of six. Leddy contributed his first goal and first multipoint game since Dec. 23.
With Chicago’s victory and Anaheim’s loss to Columbus, the Blackhawks pulled within three points of the Ducks for the overall NHL lead.
Anze Kopitar had a goal and two assists in Los Angeles’ highest-scoring performance since Jan. 21. Drew Doughty and Tyler Toffoli also scored, and Jonathan Quick stopped 25 shots in the Kings’ ninth loss in 10 games.
“Tonight, energy-wise I think, was our best night in a while,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “We’ve got to just keep plugging along. I know it’s a broken record, but we’re not going to get out of it by doing anything different. … There’s definitely frustration. If you’re not frustrated in this room, there’s something wrong with you.”
Although the Kings scored more than one goal for the first time in seven games, it wasn’t enough to beat the NHL’s highest-scoring team, which had lost two of three on its six-game road trip heading into the Olympic break. Los Angeles had scored just three total goals in the last six games heading into this meeting of the NHL’s last two champs.
“I think that we have a couple of guys that are frustrated with their own games,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “They’re having a hard time right now, whether it’s the schedule or just where they’re at with their own games. That’s something they need to deal with themselves, for sure.”
The Kings got off to a horrific start yet again: Kane scored after Doughty took a charging penalty 24 seconds after the opening faceoff.
Bickell then scored on a slick pass from Kane, but Doughty kept it close with his eighth goal on a one-timer moments later. His goal was the first by any Kings player except Kopitar in nearly two weeks.
Kopitar evened it with a flip of a bouncing puck on a 3-on-1 rush, for his 17th goal, but Chicago went back ahead when Leddy’s shot from the point deflected off Kruger’s blade and smacked Kings defenceman Matt Greene’s stick, popping over Quick’s shoulder.
After Leddy scored with 12:59 to play, Sharp set up Kane’s second goal moments later.
NOTES: Quick has started 15 of the Kings’ 16 games since he returned from a seven-week injury absence. … Toffoli’s late goal was his 10th of the season—and first since Dec. 19. … The Kings scratched F Jordan Nolan, and Matt Frattin returned to the lineup after sitting out the past four games.