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Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews needs teammates to play like champions

Los Angeles KingsSportsIce HockeyChicago BlackhawksJonathan ToewsJoel QuennevilleSlash (music artist)
Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews does all he could, but Kings take 2-1 series lead
Captain Jonathan Toews scores twice in first period to give Blackhawks lead

Hockey isn't basketball or badminton or golf but perhaps the ultimate team sport in which everybody dressed for games typically contributes as the coach rolls four offensive lines and rotates three defensive pairs.

One man can only do so much.

And Jonathan Toews did all he could Saturday night at Staples Center in the Blackhawks' 4-3 loss to the Kings in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals but even the best of captains need help. Now, Toews needs the Patricks — Kane and Sharp — to play the way stars must play on this stage and the rest of his teammates to exhibit the intelligence and intensity he brought west. He needs the Blackhawks to start behaving like champions again instead of challengers.

"We need to be the best we possibly can be now and we've shown we can in the past,'' Toews said. "The motivation is right in front of us.''

It's screaming at the Blackhawks to respond before this becomes their trip to Lost Angeles.

Kings center Jeff Carter has dominated a series his team now leads, 2-1, because overall the Kings look stronger and more responsible at both ends. Toews hasn't because the Blackhawks have spent the last two games appearing out of sync and out of character.

"Our power play tonight didn't help us,'' Coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday. "That was the difference in the game.''

It was far from the only one. Sure, the Blackhawks' power play seems unplugged, but their discipline disintegrated too. The defense deteriorated so much that you wouldn't have blamed Dick Butkus for removing the No. 51 Blackhawks jersey he wore to the game.

For the first time since 2010, the Blackhawks lost the opening road game of a playoff series. The defending Stanley Cup champs won't panic but Quenneville must react with purposeful moves to shake things up. Second-line center Michael Handzus was a liability. Michal Rozsival's dumb penalty preceded Drew Doughty's power-play goal that gave the Kings a cushion. Could Jeremy Morin help?

"We'll look at our lines,'' Quenneville said, promising nothing.

At least if the Hawks are worried about playing angry Monday in Game 4, they always could watch Saturday's game repeatedly. The Blackhawks arrived so determined to take the ice in a bad mood they invited the media in two hours before dropping the puck. That usually works.

"We want to play [ticked] off,'' Toews said pregame.

Nothing summed up what Toews meant by funneling anger into effort better than his first of two first-period goals. At the 5-minute 26-second mark with the Blackhawks on a penalty kill, Toews poked the puck free, hustled to catch up to it and fired a short-handed goal past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.

The Kings tied it 50 seconds later when Slava Voynov beat Corey Crawford, partially screened by Toews, from just inside the face-off circle. That must have really ticked Toews off because he kept coming with the world-class will that sets him apart. With 6:41 left in the first, Toews found himself at the right place at the right time  when Michal Rozsival's rebound appeared. Skillfully, Toews kicked the puck with his right skate and knocked it past Quick for a 2-1 lead.

"His work ethic is contagious and we have to make sure we all look to play as hard as he does,'' Quenneville said.

Obviously, the Blackhawks didn't. The Kings tied it in the second when Tanner Pearson fed Jeff Carter for a one-timer from point-blank range. A derisive chorus of "Craw-ford!'' rang out but fans easily could have chanted "Hand-zus!" because Handzus' defensive lapse was more responsible.

Back in control of momentum, the Kings created more with an inspired penalty kill. Tyler Toffoli sprinted to split Blackhawks defensemen Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson, outraced Oduya to the puck and Crawford was like his blue line: defenseless.

To a man, the Blackhawks took their defeat in the dressing room with remarkable aplomb.

"It's one loss, no more frustrating than the rest,'' Duncan Keith said.

He's right, but this Kings team is more different and dangerous offensively than the one the Blackhawks beat in five last year.

A game that ended with many Chicago fans wanting to cover their eyes began with perhaps some in attendance covering their ears.

Saul Hudson, the former lead guitarist for Guns N' Roses famously known as Slash, performed the anthem without singing — or removing his big, black hat. A Memorial Day weekend rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" deserved more respect than that. Some in the crowd who still have their Axl Rose poster in the attic probably loved it, some hated it but everybody probably agreed they won't forget the experience any time soon.

If only the Blackhawks could do the same with their second straight alarming loss.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter: @DavidHaugh

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Los Angeles KingsSportsIce HockeyChicago BlackhawksJonathan ToewsJoel QuennevilleSlash (music artist)
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