LOS ANGELES (AP) — Evander Kane is happy to be making headlines for his on-ice play instead of off-ice controversies.
Edmonton’s enigmatic forward has an NHL-best five goals in the past two games of the Western Conference first-round series against Los Angeles. Kane had his first hat trick in a Stanley Cup playoff game on Friday night as the Oilers clobbered the Kings 8-2.
“There’s been a lot of trials and tribulations, and it’s nice to turn the page and start to move forward in a positive way,” Kane said.
Last summer, Kane’s ex-wife Anna accused him of gambling on games, including some against the San Jose Sharks while he was playing. There were also allegations of sexual and physical abuse.
NHL investigations found no evidence that Kane gambled on games and said the domestic violence allegations “could not be substantiated.”
In mid-October, Kane ran afoul of the league when he received a 21-game suspension for submitting a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. When the suspension ended, the Sharks placed him on waivers and sent him to the AHL when he was unclaimed.
Kane played five games for the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda before being placed in the league’s COVID-19 protocols on Dec. 22. The Sharks released him on Jan. 8 for violating protocols and terminated the remainder of his $49 million, seven-year contract.
“The beginning of the year was very tough with a lot of different things going on in my life. It’s a real credit to my family for helping me through everything,” Kane said.
Friday’s hat trick was also important to Kane because he wanted to play a big game for someone from his family. His uncle, Leonard Kane, is in the hospital with an undisclosed illness.
Kane signed with Edmonton on Jan. 28. While the Oilers welcomed him with open arms, Kane said it took some time to get his game back on track and adjust to playing on the same line with two-time league MVP Connor McDavid.
“It probably took me 10 to 15 games to get comfortable again and get my legs back. Playing with Connor for the first time, it was going to take a little bit to build some chemistry,” Kane said. “We’ve done a great job of building that and continuing to grow that as we move forward.”
Kane posted 39 points in 43 regular-season games with the Oilers (22 goals, 17 assists) but has been playing his best over the past month. He had six goals and four assists in the final eight games before the playoffs, including a hat trick in an Apr. 26 win at Pittsburgh that wrapped up home ice in the first round.
Besides his scoring ability, Kane was second among Edmonton forwards with 135 hits and fourth in average ice time (19:27).
While Kane has taken a hit with his off-ice incidents and reputation for being a difficult teammate at prior stops, Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft has not seen that. He noted Kane has been a good teammate and complements a lineup that has come into its own late in the season.
“He has really good habits,” Woodcroft said. “He goes to hard areas, and he stops. He doesn’t fly by confrontation. He’s physical. He invests on other teams’ defense corps. He’s a big part of why we’re at where we’re at.”
McDavid, who advocated for Kane’s signing, has been happy to have another forward who can finish around the net.
“He finds a way to put it in the back of the net. He’s hard on the forecheck, and he seems to be in the right spot at the right time,” McDavid said.
The Oilers have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and look to continue their momentum Sunday night in Game 4. Los Angeles won the first game 4-3, but Edmonton has dominated the last two, outscoring the Kings 14-2.
“I don’t think we look at it as 14-2. I think we’re looking at it as we’re up 2-1 in this series with a really important game on Sunday,” Kane said. “I think there’s still room for our game to improve. I think we could have better starts. I don’t think we’ve had a great start in any of the three games throughout this series, but we’ve stuck with it. And we’re just continuing to build our game.”
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