TORONTO -- It was a play Patrick Kane can make in his sleep. He picks up the puck deep in the offensive zone, curls behind the net to buy time as he searches for an opening. Time seems to come to a crawl as he holds onto the puck for what seems like an eternity. Eventually he cuts inside the blue line, slips through a seam in the defense and BOOM, it's in the back of the net.
That was the scene in the second period of Saturday's opening game of the World Cup of Hockey. Only this time the end result was the puck in the back of Team USA's net as Kane uncharacteristically lost the handle, sending Leon Draisaitl and Nino Niederreiter on a 2-on-0 rush that resulted in Team Europe's second goal of the game.
It proved to be a back-breaking play in a stunning 3-0 loss for the heavily-favored Americans.
A short time later Kane found himself surrounded by cameras and microphones trying to explain the unexplainable.
"That's a play that I've made a million times in my career. I just kind of lost the puck and the next thing you know they're going down 2-on-0," the star forward told a throng of media.
"That's unacceptable for me. But at the same time. I thought we had chances and had looks, but we didn't seem to get a break in that game. It's unfortunate because that was a huge game for us."
If that game was huge, Team USA's game against Canada on Tuesday is absolutely gargantuan. With their tournament lives on the line, the Americans will be looking to the NHL's reigning MVP to help them keep their slim hopes on life support.
"This isn't to degrade anybody, but your best players need to be your best players. That's how you win these games," said U.S. head coach John Tortorella.
"It's very important, against probably the best team in this tournament, that our guys need to be there. And it's not just Kane. There are a number of really good players on our club that need to step up. We're out of time. It has to happen tomorrow night."
Still, it's important not to put all the weight on the shoulders of their slender superstar. His teammates know they have to play within the framework of the system if they are going to kickstart their offensive machine.
"You want the puck on his stick, but you can't just throw pucks at him all the time. You have to wait for the right opportunities," said forward Justin Abdelkader, who might see time playing with Kane.
"I think we're a better team when Patrick Kane has the puck on his stick, for sure."
And no matter who his linemates are or who he's matched up against, Kane can only focus on doing what he does best -- scoring goals and creating chances.
"I think the lineup like we have you're not too concerned about who you're playing with because everyone is a capable linemate," he said.
"You'll play with everyone at some point in time. When you're out there you just want to play the way you know how, play to your strengths, play to the reason you were named to this team in the first place."
For all he's done in his NHL career, Kane has not enjoyed that same success on the international stage. He failed to find the back of the net in Sochi at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, and was stopped on two penalty shots in the bronze-medal game against Finland.
One player does not win or lose a game or a tournament for a team. It will take a team effort to keep the American's tournament hopes beating for one more day. And while he's not the only player on this team that can put the puck in the net, Kane knows that his success greatly improves the odds of a U.S. victory tonight and in future games.
"Obviously I didn't produce anything last game and that's my job on the team, to produce offense, create scoring chances and try to put points on the board," said Kane, who became the first American to lead the NHL in scoring last season.
"At the same time, we just have to learn from it and wipe the slate clean and come into the next game full of confidence and play the way you know you can."
|Fri, Sept. 9||Canada (Pre-Tourn.)||Columbus, OH (Nationwide)||W, 4-2|
|Sat., Sept. 10||Canada (Pre-Tourn.)||Ottawa, Ont.||L, 2-5|
|Tues., Sept. 13||Finland (Pre-Tourn.)||Washington, D.C. (Verizon)||W, 3-2|
|Sat., Sept. 17||Team Europe||Toronto (ACC)||L, 0-3|
|Tues., Sept. 20||Canada||Toronto (ACC)||L, 2-4|
|Thurs., Sept. 22||Czech Republic||Toronto (ACC)||L, 3-4|
Tag(s): 2016 World Cup