Toews scores hat trick, Kane adds 2 in Hawks' win
When they were just a couple of brash, confident kids breaking into the NHL, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane played together all the time.
Combining Kane's speed and playmaking ability with Toews's defensive prowess and solid offensive skills created a lethal duo that opponents had a tough time dealing with on a nightly basis.
As time went on, Joel Quenneville broke his stars up to balance things out, but when the time called for it, the coach never hesitated to put Kane and Toews back together.
The move became known as the Nuclear Option, and new coach Jeremy Colliton found out just how explosive it can be during a wild, action-packed 8-5 victory Sunday over the Washington Capitals at the United Center.
"The top line there," Colliton grinned, "they were pretty good."
Toews registered the fifth hat trick of his career and added 2 assists, and Kane scored twice and also had 3 assists. On 4 of their 5 goals, it was Toews assisting Kane or Kane assisting Toews.
"I know what he likes and how he likes to play," Toews said. "And vice versa. We can complement each other well."
The Hawks' other goals came from Brandon Saad, Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome.
Toews (21 goals), Kane and Alex Ovechkin are the only players to hit the 20-goal mark in each of the past 12 seasons. Kane has 29 goals and is on pace for 48.
The Hawks are 4-2-2 this season when Kane and Toews have started on a line together.
"Obviously, Kaner's been playing with a ton of confidence, so for me it was just go out there and make his life easier and get him the puck and get to open areas," Toews said. "If we are together for a little bit longer this time around then we'll look to try and continue that."
Toews' first goal, which gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead, came courtesy of the Capitals' Dmitry Orlov at 14:53 of the first period. As the two players battled in front of Braden Holtby, the puck popped up, and Orlov batted it over Holtby and into the net.
"Definitely had a couple (in my career) that are questionable," said a smiling Toews. "Hang around the net and sometimes you chop away at it and that's what happened. … After tonight no one will be asking about how that goal went in."
The most encouraging sign for the Hawks was they that didn't go into a funk after Washington cut the lead to 4-3 on a John Carlson goal at 3:09 of the third period and 6-5 on a Matt Niskanen tally at 13:55 of the third.
Both times, the Hawks had a response.
The first came when Kane jumped on the ice after Carlson's goal and immediately pushed the pace in the offensive zone. Seconds later, Niklas Backstrom was called for a hooking penalty, and Kane proceeded to score a power-play goal at 3:45.
Toews' third goal was an absolute beauty and gave the Hawks a 7-5 lead at 14:57. Toews gathered the puck at center ice and -- as he entered the offensive zone -- actually passed it to himself by advancing it under a retreating Orlov's stick.
After zipping past Orlov, Toews caught up to the puck and snapped a shot past backup goaltender Pheonix Copley.
"It's tough to protect a one-goal lead when you got that much time on the clock," Toews said. "I think we did a good job of trying to turn it around and keep that momentum in the third period."
The Hawks (17-24-9) still had their lapses and 2 of the goals Delia allowed came from bad angles, but overall Colliton was happy with how his team kept their focus.
"We had someone (come) through for us," Colliton said. "Whether it was a big save or a big goal or just a play -- just start in 'D' zone and end in the offensive zone -- and we were able to get things back under control.
"That's what good teams do. You can't play a perfect 60, but when things start going against you, there's a stopper that comes through and makes a play for you."
Carlson scored twice for the defending-champion Capitals, who have lost five straight and fell to 27-16-5 overall.