Toews' breakaway goal 7:36 into overtime off a clearing attempt from Duncan Keith by way of Andrew Shaw's shin pad was a thing of beauty, and something of a lucky break too. The Chicago Blackhawks' captain will take it not only for the win, but for his personal confidence.
Toews was forced to help the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in other ways last year because he went into a deep scoring slump; he went the first nine games without a goal and then another 10 before he scored twice in the last three games of the Stanley Cup Final.
Toews had three goals in 23 playoff games last year; he already has two, both game-winners, in five games this year. Toews' goal Friday lifted Chicago to a 3-2 win against the St. Louis Blues and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series.
Game 6 is Sunday at United Center (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
"It's nice to not have to fight that and work for that first one like I was last year," Toews said. "People start talking about it and whether you want it to or not it gets in your head. You want to score goals. You want to contribute offensively for our team. Last year I didn't have to, clearly, but I wanted to."
Toews, whose goal in Game 3 was the difference in a 2-0 Blackhawks' victory, said he went into overtime thinking he was going to be the hero.
"I think that's the only way you can find a way to score a goal," Toews said. "If you don't go into an overtime period thinking that you might be the guy, [that] you might be the one to help your team end the game and get the win, than I don't think you're in the right mindset or frame of mind to score that goal. Every guy in this room goes in thinking he might be the guy to get that lucky bounce. I tell myself that a lot. It doesn't always necessarily work out, but [Friday night] it did."
Toews has been fast, on pucks, physical and opportunistic through the first five games of the series. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he thinks the six games that Toews sat out at the end of the regular season made a big difference.
Not only did Toews play deep into June last year because of the Blackhawks' Cup run, but he was a significant player on Canada's gold-medal winning team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The six games Toews played in Russia he made up for at the end of the season, when he sat out with a shoulder injury that the Blackhawks knew all along would heal in time for the playoffs.
"Getting that break coming into the playoffs got him fresh," Quenneville said. "A lot of hockey for him last bit of time, but he's skating hard, skating well. That time away did him some good."
Toews said as much earlier in the series. He's feeling even better now even though the five games Chicago has played against St. Louis have been physically and mentally taxing.
Four of them have gone into overtime, including triple-overtime in Game 1, marking just the fifth time in Stanley Cup Playoff history that at least four of the first five games of a series have gone past regulation, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"[He's doing it] in such a tight-checking series too," Keith said of Toews. "There was a lot made out of him not scoring last year. I think he still had a lot of chances, but he just couldn't score. It's nice to see him get some goals there. He's always got that leadership, work ethic and two-way game in him. So when he's scoring it obviously makes our team that much more dangerous."
To get the overtime winner Friday, Toews simply had to come onto the ice and go to the right spot. He jumped over the boards and was heading toward the Blackhawks' zone to backcheck when the puck just came to him.
Keith had swatted it out of the defensive one and it hit off Shaw before coming to Toews, who was behind St. Louis defensemen Jordan Leopold and Jay Bouwmeester.
"I came on just kind of backchecking through the middle of the ice and the next thing the puck just came up the middle of the ice to me," Toews said. "I turned back and went the other way."
Toews said he noticed Blues goalie Ryan Miller come out of his crease, so he knew he'd have to make a move to try to beat him. He deked to his backhand, got Miller to bite, and slid the puck into the net.
"I wasn't even sure where their D-men were," Toews said. "Just got going as fast as I could to take advantage of a chance.
"It was instinctive."
Shaw and Keith said it was clutch, a word typically associated with Chicago's captain.
Toews didn't have many clutch moments in the playoffs last year, but the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup anyway. That he's scoring goals now doesn't bode well for the rest of the NHL.
"Give an opportunity to a guy like that, he's going to put it in the back of the net," Shaw said.