TORONTO — Patrick Kane appreciated getting his first career regular-season hat trick, though it paled in importance to his first two — which both came in the playoffs.
"I think I've had a few two-goal games but I guess it just never really happened," Kane said. "I wouldn't trade the two in the playoffs for anything in the regular season but it's nice to get the first one."
Kane's first playoff hat trick came on May 11, 2009, against Vancouver in a 7-5 win in the clinching Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals. His second was on June 8, 2013, against Los Angeles in Game 5 of the West finals, with his game-winner in the second overtime sending the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final.
Artemi Panarin also scored and assisted on two of Kane's goals for the Blackhawks. Scott Darling made 28 saves to earn the win in net for Chicago while Corey Crawford took the night off after a 2-1 win in Montreal the night before.
Kane, who added an assist for a four-point night, now has an NHL-leading 28 goals on the season.
The win puts Chicago in first in the Central Division, a point ahead of the Dallas Stars, who played at Anaheim later Friday night.
"We're happy with the way we're trending but we're not satisfied with where we're at," Kane said. "We still feel like we can improve, our coaches feel like we can improve so there's plenty of things we can do better."
Morgan Rielly scored for Toronto, which has lost four in a row. James Reimer stopped 25 shots.
The Maple Leafs were whistled for six penalties — including four in the second period — with Chicago earning two power-play goals.
"I think that's one of their skills — the power play," Rielly said. "I think they're really good at it. They use each other well. They really make the ice big and create opportunities.
"Their D got pucks to the net and created scoring chances and that's one of their strengths."
Kane scored his first goal of the night midway through the second period just as a Toronto penalty ended, putting away a cross-ice pass from Duncan Keith, who was down low after Chicago had briefly been stripped of the puck in the waning seconds of its power play.
Kane struck again on the power play with 2:47 left in the second as he one-timed the puck past a diving Reimer from almost an identical spot as his first goal. This goal was on the power play as Matt Hunwick served a high-sticking penalty.
Hunwick's penalty was one of the four in the second, including a high-sticking penalty Nazem Kadri took with a second left in the period. Roman Polak then earned a cross-checking penalty 12 seconds into the third.
Panarin made the most of Chicago's ensuing two-man advantage, giving the Blackhawks a 3-0 lead just 21 seconds into the third.
"Bottom line is that special teams killed us," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "In the end you're disappointed. I liked our approach, I liked our plan but in the end you can't give up those goals and you can't be short-handed against that team."
Rielly ended Darling's shutout bid 3:47 into the third, wiring a wrist shot from the faceoff circle over the Chicago goaltender's shoulder to cut the Blackhawks lead to 3-1.
Brad Boyes almost added a goal for Toronto near the midway point of the third, firing a one-timer at close range at Darling, who made a stunning save. Boyes could've collected his own rebound for a second shot but mishandled the puck.
Kane completed his hat trick with 2:12 left in regulation by putting the puck into an empty net.
It looked as though Andrew Shaw had opened scoring for Chicago with 7:53 left in the first period, banging in his own rebound after putting a shot on net. However, Toronto coach Mike Babcock challenged the play and it was overruled because Marian Hossa was a stride ahead of Shaw on the play, making it offside.
NOTES: The game was played before an announced crowd of 20,049 at Air Canada Centre. ... Toronto LW James van Riemsdyk was a scratch as he continues to heal a fractured foot. ... D Frank Corrado and LW Rich Clune were healthy scratches for the Maple Leafs.