Patrick Kane and Ben Smith tallied goals for the Hawks, and Corey Crawford made 27 saves as the Chicago Blackhawks knocked off the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 2-1 at the United Center on Saturday night.
Drew Stafford scored the only goal for the Sabres in the game, and Ryan Miller stopped 38 shots in the losing effort.
The game started out in similar fashion to most of their previous contests for the Hawks, with Chicago dominating both puck possession time and shots on goal. They had several good chances early on, but it wasn’t until Smith deflected in a shot by Brent Seabrook that they were able to get one past Ryan Miller, and they took a 1-0 lead on the play.
After that goal though, Miller went into lockdown mode. Just like Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jaroslav Halak of the St. Louis Blues, Miller’s confident play kept Buffalo in the game, and no matter what tricks the Hawks tried to pull with the puck to try to get great scoring chances, Miller stymied all of them for the duration of the first period and for much of the second.
That dazzling play by Miller must have given some faith to the Sabres’ skaters, and they started getting some great offensive push as the second period wore on. Crawford was more than up to the task though, as he picked up a couple of beautiful saves on a Thomas Vanek 2-on-1 chance and then a shot from Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers along the goal line.
Just like Miller’s play gave his Sabres teammates some confidence, Crawford’s solid saves seemed to have had the same energizing effect on the Blackhawks. Late in the second period, the Hawks went on a power play, and Kane cashed in before the final horn and gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead. The play, which came as a result of some great patience by Patrick Sharp as he circled the Buffalo net, was a thing of beauty, and was yet another example of the great teamwork and puck movement that the Hawks have been displaying on the power play all season long.
Despite the 2-0 lead for the home side, the Sabres weren’t content to just let the Hawks get away from them. The first six shots of the third period all went the Sabres’ way, but yet again, Crawford was more than up to the task, stopping all of them and preventing any quality second chances for the Buffalo side.
Unfortunately for Chicago, they couldn't keep the Sabres at bay forever. On a great rush by Buffalo after a lackluster dump-in by the Hawks, Cody Hodgson found a streaking Drew Stafford in the Hawks' zone, and he fired a puck past Crawford to bring Buffalo back to within a goal at 2-1.
The goal seemed to wake the Blackhawks up, as they came out of the stoppage after the goal firing once again. They couldn't get any quality scoring chances on any of the plays, but the sense of urgency seemed to be back, and their aggressive back-checking was evidence of that change of emotion following the Sabres' goal.
The Sabres weren't done yet though. They got a couple of great chances in the game's closing minutes, with one squence seeing Crawford scramble all over his goal crease to stuff Buffalo shot attempts, but somehow, the Sabres weren't able to convert, and the Hawks held onto the lead.