LOS ANGELES — Hockey isn't basketball or badminton or golf, but perhaps the ultimate team sport. Everybody dressed for games typically contributes as the coach rolls four offensive lines and rotates three defensive pairs.
One man can do only so much.
And Jonathan Toews did all he could Saturday night at the 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 needs 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 Hawks to start behaving like champions again instead of challengers.
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"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 Hawks 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 Hawks 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. "That was the difference in the game.''
It was far from the only one. Sure, the Hawks' 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 Hawks jersey he wore to the game.
The defending Stanley Cup champs won't panic, but Quenneville must react with purposeful moves to shake things up. Second-line center Michal 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 Hawks arrived so determined to take the ice in a bad mood that they invited the media in two hours before dropping the puck. That usually works.
"We want to play pissed off,'' Toews said before the game.
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 Hawks 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 faceoff 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 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 Hawks didn't. The Kings tied it in the second when Tanner Pearson fed 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.
After regaining the momentum, the Kings created more with an inspired penalty kill. Tyler Toffoli sprinted to split defensemen Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson, outraced Oduya to the puck and Crawford was like his blue line: defenseless.
To a man, the Hawks 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 different from and more dangerous offensively than the one the Hawks beat in five games last year.
A game that ended with many Hawks 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. A spine-tingling, Jim Cornelison moment, this wasn't. Some in the crowd who still have their Axl Rose posters in the attic probably loved it, some hated it, but everybody likely agreed they won't forget the experience anytime soon.
If only the Hawks could do the same with their second straight alarming loss.