Hometown boy Patrick Kane scored in the first period, and Jonathan Toews picked up a goal early in the third as the Chicago Blackhawks picked up a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night.
Drew Stafford picked up the lone Buffalo goal, and Jhonas Enroth made 29 saves for the Sabres. Corey Crawford made 20 saves as the Hawks won their second straight game.
The Blackhawks’ offense didn’t take long to get going in the first period, as Kane made an impact immediately. On a quick pass from Patrick Sharp in the neutral zone, Kane grabbed the puck and made a gorgeous move as he deked the puck between Buffalo defenseman Christian Ehrhoff’s legs. After that move, he then drew Chad Ruhwedel across the ice, then snapped off a shot that went over Enroth’s glove and into the net for a 1-0 lead for Chicago.
Just a few moments later, it appeared that the Sabres tied the game. Crawford was handling the puck out in front of the goal crease, and when he got a bit indecisive, Tyler Ennis lifted the puck off the goaltender’s stick and put it in the back of the net. The goal was immediately waved off by the official behind the net, as he ruled that Ennis had hooked Crawford in the process of stealing the puck, and the Hawks maintained their lead.
That advantage did not last for long however, as a series of defensive breakdowns doomed the Hawks. Johnny Oduya pinched over toward the boards on a Buffalo rush to attempt to cut off the puck carrier, but he completely missed. Brent Seabrook and Oduya then both lost their defensive assignments, and Cory Conacher slid a pass over to Drew Stafford, who tapped in an easy goal to make it a 1-1 game about halfway through the first period.
As the period wore on, the Hawks continued to press forward, but Enroth made several key saves as the frame went on. Kane picked up a great chance late, but an Oduya penalty towards the end of the period ended some of the momentum as the Sabres carried a power play into the second period with the game tied at 1-1.
In that second period, both teams got several quality scoring chances thanks to numerous power play opportunities, but neither side could take advantage. Tyler Myers made a great move at the blue line to get past Duncan Keith, and fired a high slap shot that Crawford was able to snare with a great glove save. Kane also got another great opportunity, but his breakaway off a quick pass from Sharp at the blue line was barely stopped by Enroth as the game remained tied after two periods.
The Blackhawks went through an emotional rollercoaster in the opening minutes of the third period, as Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked two successive slap shots and had to limp off the ice in some serious pain. He ended up laying down in the hallway between the locker room and bench, but after a few minutes off the ice, he ended up coming back and finished up the contest.
The Hawks also had their fair share of joy in those opening minutes as Toews netted a goal to make it a 2-1 game. Using some great passing from the team’s first line, Andrew Shaw found Brandon Saad with a quick pass through the offensive zone. Making a nice move through the defense, Saad got to the near side of the net, but instead of taking a short-sided shot on Enroth, he feathered a pass across the crease and right onto the waiting stick of Toews, who tapped in the shot to give his squad the lead back.
That line wasn’t quite finished either, as just a few minutes later the line nearly extended the lead to two goals. On a 2-on-1 rush, Toews and Shaw played catch with the puck going up the ice, and ultimately the captain fed a pass over to Shaw, who was barely stopped by Enroth. A Shaw shot on a power play later in the period also clanged off the crossbar, as did a follow-up by Kane a few seconds later as the game remained a one-goal affair.
The Sabres got a power play on a Hjalmarsson hooking penalty late in the third period, but despite a close call at the very last second as a puck went between Crawford's legs off the boards, the Blackhawks were able to kill off the penalty and raise their success rate to 5-for-5 in the game.
As the seconds ticked away, the Blackhawks didn't allow the Sabres to get much in the way of scoring opportunities with the Buffalo net open, and both Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger had a couple of good chances to score. Both players were denied, and as the Hawks cleared the puck for the final time, Kane got one more look, but the puck crossed the line just after the horn sounded, so Chicago had to settle for a 2-1 victory.