LOS ANGELES -- Coaches switch their forward lines with great frequency when their teams are trailing, so Joel Quenneville's decision to flip his top two right wings near the end of the second period Thursday night wasn't out of the ordinary.
Little did he know how much impact one simple move could have.
Quenneville switched Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa on the right side of his top two lines -- and both players scored as to help the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final.
"When you score like that, it helps," Quenneville said after his team moved within one victory of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. "Sometimes you're doing it just to change things. We were behind. I still didn't mind the way we were playing at that point of the game. Maybe you get one, and we did. But scoring early in the third really helped us."
Kane went to the penalty box for tripping at 12:39 of the second period. Not long after returning to the ice, he was moved to the right side with center Jonathan Toews and left wing Bryan Bickell. Their second shift together was a dominant one that led to the game-tying goal.
Bickell collected a long pass from defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and carried the puck into the zone, where it would stay for 35 seconds. The Blackhawks swung the puck around the perimeter to get Hjalmarsson a shot from the left point, but it was deflected wide by Kings forward Justin Williams.
Kane took a pass from defenseman Nick Leddy and wheeled around the top of the zone before flinging a wrist shot from the left point; it went just wide. Toews collected the puck after it bounced off the end boards and tried to chip it over sprawled goaltender Jonathan Quick, but he missed the target as well.
Leddy kept the puck alive with a one-handed poke, and Kane's pass from the left corner found Hjalmarsson. Bickell deflected the shot from Hjalmarsson past Quick. Just before it crossed the goal line, Kane dove into the crease and helped it finish the journey with 1:21 left in the second period.
"I think [Quenneville] wanted a spark with the lines, but [Kane]'s poise with the puck is outstanding," Bickell said. "For me to get in front and it was a great shot by [Hjalmarsson] and he gets a couple-inch goal. It was huge, and I thought for that whole third period we played well and kept the puck out of our net."
Kane has been struggling this spring, but he was a different player on Thursday. He finished the night with seven shots on net and was robbed of a second goal by a great glove save in the third period by Quick.
Kane has gone long stretches in previous games without making much of an impact, but he was consistently noticeable in Game 4 -- particularly after Quenneville made the switch.
"[Kane] was telling me, he's like, ‘Ah, I know I stole one from you there, but you've already got eight.' It is like whatever," Bickell said. "The most important thing is we got the win, to get that momentum back on our side and playing the hockey that we know we can."
Chicago's new-look second line didn't take long to make an impact. The Blackhawks had 60 seconds of power-play time to start the third period after a penalty drawn by Kane, and Quenneville put Bickell, Toews and Kane together again for it.
Los Angeles defenseman Robyn Regehr went from the penalty box to the bench because he would have been a third forward. His normal partner, Drew Doughty, drifted toward the bench as well, but Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya snapped a pass to Handzus to start a 2-on-1 break. Handzus made a perfect feed to Hossa, who didn't miss on a wicked one-timer that put Chicago ahead to stay.
"He's more playmaker than shooter when he had the puck in his hands, I knew I just needed to open myself up and he would give it to me," Hossa said of Handzus, a fellow Slovak.
Quenneville talked before Game 4 about needing more from his top guys, but Kane in particular. Kane bounced back with a big effort, and a tweak of the lines by Quenneville proved a prescient maneuver.
"I think the biggest thing was just trying to get the puck any way I could, skate with it, feel into the game, no matter how that was," Kane said. "I thought I did a good job of that. Got a lot of support from whether it's coaches or teammates that want you to have the puck, that want you to start skating with it and moving it. It's a big part of our game. If we play as a five-man unit and come up the ice with speed, you see how successful we can be."
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