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Chicago Blackhawks' biggest stars step up in NHL playoffs

Photo: David E.Klutho/SI

After returning from a long injury layoff, Patrick Kane is playing like Patrick Kane again.

CHICAGO (AP) -- For four straight games, the Blackhawks reminded the rest of the NHL why they are one tough out in the playoffs.

Jonathan Toews and the rest of Chicago's biggest stars just love this time of year.

Toews had three game-winning goals to help the defending Stanley Cup champions eliminate the Blues in the first round of the playoffs. The Blackhawks rallied after dropping the first two games of the series in St. Louis.

"I don't think you win a playoff series, let alone the Stanley Cup, without battling your way out of tough spots," Toews said after Sunday's clinching victory. "That team that works the way they do, they're nonstop. They don't give up. It's something you have to expect from them and something you have to deal with.

"It shows a lot of character in our room. It's a big reason why we've been successful."

Now Chicago gets to rest for a couple of days before it begins preparing for the second round on Wednesday. Next up is Minnesota or Colorado. The Avalanche had a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 on Monday night in Minnesota.

Toews also had four assists in the first-round series, but he got plenty of help.

Patrick Kane had two goals and an assist in Chicago's 4-3 victory in Game 4, including the winning score in overtime. He has three goals and three assists in the playoffs after winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP a year ago.

HAMILTON: Hawks find another gear when going gets tough

The list goes on and on. Duncan Keith had a goal and three assists in Chicago's clinching victory in Game 6. Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa also had a couple of big plays in the series.

"It feels good. It was a tough series," said Keith, a finalist for the Norris Trophy awarded to the NHL's top defenseman. "Every game was close. Even tonight, people were watching and you guys could tell, it was a close game for 50 minutes and then we were able to separate some distance there. It felt good to get that momentum and I think we did a good job just holding onto it."

The four-game surge by the Blackhawks left St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock searching for what went wrong for the Blues, who were among the best teams in the league for most of the season.

"I really haven't done any dissecting yet, to be honest with you. Every time someone seemed to be scoring a goal, it had a 19 or and 88 or and 81 or a 10 in his back," Hitchcock said, rattling off the numbers for Toews, Kane, Hossa and Sharp. "That's all I remember."

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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