Patrick Kane felt all the losses weighing on the Chicago Blackhawks, even while he was away from the team because of COVID-19.
That weight is gone now.
Kane had three goals and an assist in his return to the lineup, and the Blackhawks beat the Ottawa Senators 5-1 on Monday night for their first win of the season.
“It’s just huge to get the first one,” Kane said. “Now we kind of got that monkey off our back.”
Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 29 saves in another solid performance, felt Kane was a bit off in his assessment.
“It’s more a big gorilla,” a grinning Fleury said. “It was not just a small monkey.”
Led by Kane, Fleury and Brandon Hagel, who scored twice, Chicago improved to 1-7-2 in front of a half-full United Center. Captain Jonathan Toews had three assists.
Kane was sidelined for the previous four games because of the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. He practised Monday morning, and then convinced coach Jeremy Colliton he was ready to go.
He was right.
“Kane came to play today and he took us apart,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “When Kane’s on the ice, you have to be aware of it, and he had too many free looks.”
Chicago sorely missed Kane’s unique offensive ability. It lost 1-0 at St. Louis on Saturday night, finishing with 25 shots on goal.
“Just gives us a difference-maker. Every shift he’s a threat,” Colliton said.
Matt Murray made 26 stops for Ottawa in his first game since he was kneed in the head during a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Oct. 23. Alex Formenton stopped Fleury’s bid for his 68th career shutout with his second of the season 1:41 into the third.
Kane’s seventh hat trick in the regular season gave him 408 career goals, moving him ahead of Steve Larmer for third on the franchise list. He also jumped over Denis Savard for third on the Blackhawks’ points list with 1,097.
“It means a lot,” Kane said. “Original Six franchise, so many great players have come through here.”
Chicago grabbed a 2-0 lead when Kane converted a backhand on a power play 2:09 into the second. Kane then buried a cross-ice pass from Erik Gustafsson 1:22 into the third, and made it 5-1 when he beat Murray through the goaltender’s legs on a breakaway with 12:43 left.
The Senators lost for the fourth time in five games overall. It was their seventh consecutive loss to the Blackhawks.
“We didn’t have good legs for whatever reason,” Smith said. “We weren’t sharp. You could see from our first power play. We had tons of momentum in the first period and they scored first. We worked uphill all night.”
Chicago caught a break 27 seconds into the third when Hagel’s shot from near the blue line got past a screened Murray for a 3-0 lead. It was Hagel’s third of the season.
The Blackhawks have postponed Marian Hossa’s legacy night in the wake of an independent report that showed the organization badly mishandled allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted former first-round pick Kyle Beach during the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2010.
Hossa is being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 15. His legacy night was scheduled for Nov. 9.
“Everyone agreed that this is an important time for our organization to reflect rather than celebrate,” the team said in a statement. “Marian and the club’s leadership team all know we must build back our community’s trust as we ensure accountability within our organization following Kyle Beach’s courage in coming forward.”
Senators: At the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.
Blackhawks: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night.