By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks came up with a third period goal from Jonathan Toews and held on for a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres Sunday night. Patrick Kane also scored for the Blackhawks, who picked up a much-needed two points on the road.
First Period-Patrick Kane gave the hometown fans something to holler about in the fourth minute. Taking a pass from Patrick Sharp at the red line, Kane weaved into the Buffalo zone and fired the puck past the glove of Jhonas Enroth. With 3:12 elapsed, Chicago led 1-0.
Brandon Saad was called for a tripping penalty at the 4:39 mark. Soon after, it appeared that the Sabres had evened the score. Corey Crawford came out to play a loose puck well in front of the crease and was kept from getting rid of the puck by Tyler Ennis. Ennis was able to gain control of the biscuit and easily beat the out of position Hawks goalie. Fortunately for Chicago, Ennis was called for a pretty soft hooking minor on Crawford and the goal was disallowed 5:23 into the period.
Buffalo did tie the game midway through the period after Ennis zipped through the neutral zone to beat the Hawks defense to a loose puck. New Sabres forward Cory Conacher took a feed across the ice and had Crawford out in front and down. The shot was off but an alert Drew Stafford was at the right post to knock the puck past Brent Seabrook’s block attempt to make it 1-1 at the 9:11 mark.
The Hawks outshot Buffalo 11-8 for the period, but the Stafford goal set Chicago on its heels for the next few minutes of the game. Not much in the way of offense was generated by the Blackhawks. Jonathan Toews centered a pass from the end boards to Saad in the 18th minute but the resulting shot was blocked by Marcus Foligno.
Late in the period, Tyler Myers seemed to get his skate turned funny and went to the locker room. Both teams would soon join him, though not before Johnny Oduya tripped Foligno with five seconds left.
Second Period-Most of the first half of the middle frame was spent with one team up a man. The Hawks killed the remaining Oduya penalty, only to have Marcus Kruger high-stick Stafford. A few seconds after Chicago killed the third Sabres power play, Saad was held by Mike D’Augostini. The Blackhawks came up empty and the teams returned to even strength.
Late in the tenth minute, Conacher had a nice scoring attempt knocked away by Crawford’s blocker. Kris Versteeg came down the ice and returned fire, though the shot never reached the Buffalo net.
The Hawks turned up the pressure over the next few minutes. Sharp make a heads up pass, catching the Sabres in a line change and springing Kane loose. Kane had a nice head of stream coming at Enroth but his backhand attempt was stopped.
Ennis led an odd-man rush and tried to set up Conacher again. Seabrook laid out and nullified the scoring chance. At the 14:12 mark, DAgostini was whistled for interference on Kruger and the Hawks had another shot at breaking the tie. Despite some decent puck movement and several shots on net, the Sabres shut down the Chicago power play again.
Kane got to a loose puck in the 17th minute and waited out the Buffalo defense but the shot was high. The power play got another shot at success when Chad Ruhwedel hooked Peter Regin with 2:23 to play in the period.
The Sabres had a shorthanded opportunity thanks to some hustle from Myers. Crawford gloved Myers’ shot from the blue line but the Hawks were denied again. Entering the second intermission, the game remained knotted at a goal apiece.
Third Period-Niklas Hjalmarsson was stung while blocking a shot in the opening seconds. Though struggling, Hjalmarsson got in the way of another shot a few seconds later. That dedication was rewarded shortly thereafter when Toews gave Chicago the lead 1:34 in.
The eventual game-winner started when Saad took a rebound in his own zone. He found Shaw across the ice at the red line with Shaw bringing the puck into the Sabres zone. Saad took the puck back coming up the left side and sent the pass in front of the Buffalo goal. Toews, who had put on the brakes at the bottom of the right circle, found the net to break the tie.
Shaw picked up a loose puck moments later and led Toews on a 2-on-1, but Shaw’s shot was snuffed out by Enroth. The Sabres gained another man advantage when Regin tripped Ville Leino but Chicago killed the penalty.
Christian Ehrhoff brought his stick down on the arm of Toews with 11:09 remaining. to give the Hawks another power play. Kane set up Shaw coming down the left side but the shot struck iron. Kane hit the crossbar with a backhand attempt. In between, Seabrook had to chase down Foligno after a Kane pass got picked off. The power play expired with the score still 2-1.
The Sabres had a rush in the 14th minutes turned away by Crawford as Buffalo began to up the offensive pressure. Brian Flynn‘s point blank attempt was caught by Crawford but Hjalmarsson was tagged with the hook with 5:32 to play. Though Buffalo had a couple of late chances but the Hawks PK unit came up big again.
With 1:36 remaining, Sabres coach Ted Nolan called his timeout and pulled Enroth. Kruger had a shot at the empty net but couldn’t get a clean shot on a bouncing puck. Ben Smith also missed the open goal. Ennis powered toward the crease in the waning seconds but Hjalmarsson got his body in front of the puck and stopped the final Buffalo threat. Kane got the puck to the empty net as the clock ran out. The officials ruled no goal, but the win was secure.
Three Stars-Conacher (third), Kane (second), Toews (first).
-Corey Crawford did not look real comfortable in the opening 20 minutes. Still, he stopped 20 of 21 shots, including at least one save made with Michal Handzus’ stick after his own cue was broken stopping an earlier attempt in the final period.
-Hjalmarsson was credited with three blocks on the night. Each of them would have laid most of us up for a couple of weeks. Dude just got up and asked for more. I thought it was a huge performance on his part.
-Apparently David Rundblad played tonight. Didn’t notice, though the box score shows his 7:38 of ice time was more that Regin (7:32) or Bryan Bickell (7:22).
-This probably wasn’t Chicago’s best effort of the season against a team going nowhere like Buffalo. Of course, the Hawks have dominated some teams lately and not come out with two points like they did tonight, so hey, let’s not sneeze at a road win.
-Next up for the Hawks is a Wednesday night date in Colorado.