VANCOUVER -- Patrick Kane showed up at the Olympics in a big way, and at the most important time for Team USA.
After lying in the weeds for the first four games Kane broke out for the Americans on Friday with a pair of goals. He played an impressive skating and puck-handling game to help his team to a 6-1 rout of Finland and a berth in Sunday's gold-medal game.
USA coach Ron Wilson was so impressed with Kane's work against the Finns that not even 30 seconds into his opening remarks he mentioned the Chicago Blackhawks star.
"To see Patrick Kane play that type of game … if he wasn't drawing a penalty he was creating a scoring opportunity almost every time he was on the ice," Wilson said at the beginning of his press conference.
Kane knew the media and fans were getting on him for his soft impact in the tournament through the first four games. He didn't say so directly, but it was clear during his interview with NHL.com that he reads or hears from other parties what people write about him.
He knew none of it was good, and that he had to change the impression.
"Well, as far you guys, you're all over me. I mean, give me a break," Kane said with a smile and a laugh. "No, no, no, I'm just kidding. I felt that way, too. I thought to myself, personally, that I had to get to another level and I thought today was a good starting point. It would have been nice to get one more, but at the same time you'll take two goals and a win any day."
If Kane can deliver that kind of performance Sunday, the Americans might just win the gold medal, an idea that seemed so preposterous coming into the tournament.
"Kaner is a special player and the one thing about his game is everyone is keying in on him and sometimes he's not going to have a game like he had today," Dustin Brown, who plays on Kane's line, told NHL.com. "Then there are other days when he has a little bit of time to make a play, and when you see Kaner do well it's when he gets away from pressure and has time to make a play. He doesn't miss or doesn't throw away opportunities when he gets them."
Part of the criticism aimed at Kane, especially after Wednesday's game against Switzerland, was that he wasn't skating hard enough to find open ice and it didn't appear that he wanted any part of the puck. He was shying away from contact.
That changed early in Friday's game when Kane looked to be skating with passion and with confidence.
"I think from the beginning of the game, from the outset I wanted to get the puck a lot and do some things with it," Kane said. "When I have the puck I am at my best, so that's what I have to do, try to get the puck in any way I can, move my feet and skate a bit."
Kane put the U.S. up 4-0 just 10:08 into the game by showing patience and dazzling stick skills.
He ripped the puck away from Niklas Hagman at the far blue line and skated down the left side all the way into the circle. He made some moves and when no Finn defenseman charged at him, he shot the puck at Miikka Kiprusoff.
Brown, who crashed the net near the left post, said the puck hit him and bounced out to the right side. Kane waltzed right by Sami Lepisto, Janne Niskala and Hagman and found the puck again. He whipped it into the net with a backhand.
"I was just coming down the left wing and looking for a pass to the middle, to be honest with you, but no one was open," Kane said. "So I just held up and waited for the defenseman to go by and tried to get a shot. I kind of missed the spot where I was shooting and I was lucky enough that the puck came back to me. I just kind of stuck with it and put it into the empty net. It was a good feeling to get going there."
He scored again on his next shift 2:23 later when he went down the right side and ripped a shot past Niklas Backstrom and into the corner of the net.
"That's one of those plays where you come down and you can't even see that corner," Kane said. "You've just gotta think where the puck could get through that opening. And from the angle I was at, I've seen players score before -- you just get it about a foot over the pad. It was a shot I tried and it went in. It was a good feeling."
Wilson said none of the coaches talked to Kane about his play or what he has to do better at any point. He didn't think there was a need to because, "Patrick knows what he has to do and we just kept on encouraging. He responded with a great game."
Kane, though, did appear to have it easy on both of his goals. The Finns didn't collapse on him and when you leave Kane alone with an open patch of ice he is one of the most dangerous players in the world.
"He found some open ice and maybe the Finns, for all I know, might have looked and said, 'Geez, he's not in form so we don't have to worry about him,'" Wilson said. "He found all kinds of space and room out there and was his usual self."
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