It can be hard to contain the Chicago Blackhawks, as two of their recent victims can attest. The Blackhawks lambasted Pittsburgh and Columbus by a combined score of 11-2, so the Sabres were thrilled to enter the third period in a 1-1 tie Sunday night.
Once the final period started, the fun times came to an end.
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews scored just 1:34 into the third, snapping the tie and sending Buffalo to a 2-1 defeat in sold-out First Niagara Center. The Sabres left Toews wide-open, ruining their chance to earn an upset.
The Sabres fell for the third time in four games despite another solid effort by Jhonas Enroth. The goaltender made 29 saves as Chicago outshot the Sabres, 31-21.
The locals who came to see Patrick Kane return with Chicago and Cory Conacher debut with the Sabres cheered them both in the opening 10 minutes.
Kane brought the hundreds of fans wearing his No. 88 jersey out of their seats with just 3:12 gone, putting home the type of highlight reel goal he scored in rinks throughout Western New York while growing up.
Skating down the right wing, Kane pushed a loose puck past Christian Ehrhoff and quickly retrieved it. The winger then took advantage of defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and goalie Jhonas Enroth. From the center of the Sabres’ zone, Kane put a shot through Ruhwedel’s legs and over Enroth’s shoulder.
It was exactly what most of the 19,070 people in the building hoped to see from Kane, who hadn’t scored since Feb. 3.
Conacher helped even the scored with 9:11 off the clock. Tyler Ennis dropped a pass to a wide-open Conacher, and the Canisius College graduate went around goalie Corey Crawford. Conacher’s shot slid through the empty crease, and Drew Stafford made sure it found the net with his seventh goal and 13th point in 14 games.
Chicago, with help from three power plays, controlled most of the second period. The Blackhawks took 13 of the 18 shots, but Enroth stopped them all to keep the game tied, 1-1.
Enroth’s best stop came against Kane with eight minutes to go. The winger took a pass at the top of the circles and broke in alone on Enroth. Kane deked and tried to find a hole between Enroth’s pads, but the goalie closed him off to earn applause from the sellout crowd.
Enroth didn’t get much help early in the third when Toews put Chicago back in front.
Andrew Shaw started the play with a cross-ice pass to Brandon Saad, which drew Enroth to his left. Saad quickly went back across the ice to Toews, who was left alone at the side of the crease for an easy empty-net goal with 1:34 off the clock.
Toews has six goals in the last four games.
The Sabres host the Nashville Predators on Tuesday as the number of home games continues to dwindle. Including the visit by the Predators, just six games are left to be played in Buffalo this season.
The game had its painful moments for the Sabres’ Tyler Myers and Matt D’Agostini. Myers limped to the dressing room late in the first period with a bum right leg after getting tangled with Chicago’s Brandon Bollig. Myers returned for the start of the second.
D’Agostini, who took two penalties, had bloody knuckles after a shot hit him in the hand. He stayed in the game.
Both teams finished 0 for 5 on the power play.