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Kane needs to find lost game

Hawks will have to work harder, play smarter and show more skill, especially missing wing

David Haugh

In the Wake of the News

12:20 AM CDT, June 5, 2013

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LOS ANGELES — In a Blackhawks dressing room late Tuesday night at the Staples Center after their 3-1 loss to the Kings in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, the truth hurt worse than the shot Niklas Hjalmarsson took to the knee that felled the defenseman.

"They worked harder than us,'' Jonathan Toews said.

Nobody doubted the Kings did.

"They were better,'' Duncan Keith added.

Nobody denied the Kings were.

"I didn't like our push-back,'' coach Joel Quenneville said. "The intensity was the differential.''

For reasons nobody can explain, the Hawks didn't match the Kings in the desire department. That happens in the NHL playoffs. The Hawks spoke like a team determined not to let it happen again.

More than anything, the Kings told the Blackhawks eliminating them won't be as easy as they made it look in Chicago. To get to the Stanley Cup Final, the Hawks will have to work harder, play smarter and show more skill.

Attention, Patrick Kane. That means you too. Especially you.

Kane wasn't the only reason the Blackhawks offense struggled but a major one. The Hawks need Kane to do more, especially inside the dots. It would be hard for the so-called superstar to do less. Stop being cute. Start being dangerous again. So far, Kane has looked too California cool — relaxed and uninvolved.

Quenneville sent a clear message along those lines when asked about Kane's game.

"You have to find a way to get the puck,'' Quenneville said. "We have to find a way to want it.''

Too often, the Hawks right winger has found a way to look like a perfect fit on the left coast that has yet to embrace these playoffs.

Not to say interest remained low in the Kings around Southern California but their bandwagon still cannot ride in the carpool lane because not enough people are on board. The Kings, 13th in the NHL in attendance, sold out the building again but enough of the 18,477 seats were filled with people wearing Blackhawks garb to make home fans see red.

If anybody in SoCal noticed or cared, that is. Local television ratings for Game 1 were more than five times higher in Chicago than in Los Angeles — 11.8 to 2.1. It takes more than a Tom Cruise sighting to legitimize a following.

As one of my longtime L.A. media friends put it, it's hockey, dude.

Locally, the sport piques much less curiosity than the Dodgers and Angels, two disappointing teams competing to see who has baseball's most bloated payroll. The Lakers underachieved with the NBA's most unlikable player, Dwight Howard, yet nobody dares look away. The surprising Clippers fired coach Vinny Del Negro for incompetence — one thing both markets agree upon — but a bigger buzz surrounds the search for his successor than the Kings' quest for another Stanley Cup.

OK, that might be getting carried away — something this city never will be accused of doing over the Kings.

Ironically, few NHL environments create a setting any more conducive to winning. This marked the Kings' eighth straight home playoff victory and 15th overall, dating to March 23.

Still, the Hawks came to California dreamin' of a sweep. And why not? They chased goalie Jonathan Quick out of Game 2. They planted doubt where it rarely grows.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter responded by juggling his lines. Center Anze Kopitar went from the Kings' top line to the third unit. Jarret Stoll took Kopitar's spot. Your move, Coach Q.

Just 3 minutes, 21 seconds into the game, the moves paid off when Justin Williams forced Nick Leddy into a turnover and beat Corey Crawford. You sensed it was the Kings' night when Slava Voynov scored their second goal with a broken stick past a screened Crawford.

Like they occasionally did in the Red Wings series, the Hawks let falling behind frustrate them. Keith drawing a dumb four-minute penalty for high-sticking Jeff Carter in retaliation offered Exhibit A.

The Hawks spent too much time in the box and on their heels. An exception came with 35 seconds left in the second period when Bryan Bickell produced a rare offensive highlight on a dazzling wrap-around. With Kane picking the worst time for a scoring slump, somebody had to get creative.

Otherwise, the team that had done such a good job pressuring Quick didn't take its first shot until 8:47 into the game.

A cynic might suggest the sight of official Stephen Walkom made the Hawks tentative because players figured if they did score, Walkom would only wave it off the way he did Hjalmarsson's in Game 7 against the Wings. A realist would say the Kings' effort simply reminded everybody this promises to be a series worth watching, even for Californians.

It certainly got the Hawks' attention.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh