CHICAGO – Jonathan Toews was back and so was the firepower that made the Chicago Blackhawks one of the NHL’s most dangerous teams in the season’s first two weeks.
Toews, who had been out with a concussion since Vancouver’s Willie Mitchell levelled him on Oct. 21, followed Troy Brouwer’s third-period power-play goal with one of his own 3:31 later and the Blackhawks went on to defeat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 on Monday night.
“His presence, the way he plays the game, the way he competes every shift, that’s why he’s the captain,” Blackhawks centre John Madden said of Toews. “He’s not very vocal. He just leads by the way he plays, by example. It’s contagious. If we just follow along and compete as hard as he does, everybody will be all right.”
The Blackhawks lost three of the six games Toews missed. It had been nearly four weeks since they had scored more than three times in a game, and they hadn’t put in more than one power-play goal since the season’s second game.
“I felt great on the ice,” said Toews, who had a team-high 34 goals last season but has only two this year. “If you look at a lot of our games in the past couple weeks, they were low-scoring. We struggled a bit on the power play. That was the difference tonight.”
Toews, who also was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal, energized a power play that had converted on only three of its previous 33 attempts. The Blackhawks had scored but four man-advantage goals at home all season.
“I’ve always said the power play can win you a game and penalty killing can lose you a game. And tonight, it lost us a game,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “(The Blackhawks) brought their work boots. They got a couple-goal lead and played prevent (defence).”
The Kings managed only 18 shots, including two in the third period. Los Angeles ranks third in the league with 58 goals but has scored just once in each of its last two games, both losses. The mini-slump followed a 6-0-2 stretch.
“They’re a top team in the conference and the league, and you can see why,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We played a very good game across the board.”
Anze Kopitar made it 1-1 with his 14th goal for the Kings, tying injured Washington star Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead. Kopitar, who leads the league with 28 points, has teamed with linemates Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams for 51 points in their 13 games together.
The Blackhawks went ahead for good 1:33 into the third period, when Brouwer, standing to the right of goalie Jonathan Quick, deflected Patrick Sharp’s pass into the net.
At 5:04, Sharp poked the puck away from defenceman Matt Greene in the left circle and Brouwer fed Toews, who scored on a backhander from the slot.
Andrew Ebbett, claimed off waivers from Anaheim last month, scored his first goal with the Blackhawks with 10:40 to play.
Madden had given Chicago a 1-0 lead 1:04 into the second period – a goal Murray said Quick should have prevented.
“Madden’s coming down on his backhand off the wing. We need to have those stops,” the coach said. “Playing on the road in a hostile environment, you’ve got to make sure you’re making the routine stops.”
NOTES: The victory gave the Blackhawks a 73-72-21 lead in the all-time series against the Kings. … Blackhawks LW Ben Eager was activated from injured reserve after missing 13 games with a concussion. … It took Kopitar 50 games to get his 14th goal last season. … Blackhawks C Dave Bolland was out with a back injury.