CHICAGO -- Back-to-back wins in New York and Chicago after the double disaster against Boston? It seemed silly to ponder when the week started, even after Jack Eichel correctly called for some soul searching in the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room.
How close it came to happening. After a dominant performance Tuesday in Madison Square Garden, Buffalo was just over two minutes away from wrapping up a win in regulation Thursday in United Center.
And then it all fell apart.
Artem Anisimov scored with 2:04 left to tie the game and South Buffalo native Patrick Kane banged home a Jonathan Toews rebound after 56 seconds of overtime to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-3 win over the shellshocked Sabres.
If you want to talk about a demoralizing point in a building where the Sabres had failed to get a single one since 2007, this was it.
"That's kind of a tough one to swallow," said Jack Eichel, whose power-play goal at 1:10 of the third period had put Buffalo into a 3-2 lead, its third of the night. "You come into a building it's not easy to win in, go into the third tied, find a way to get a lead, play with it and piss it away. It's something we've done a lot of.
"It's that little extra. Too many overtime losses this year. It's painful. You have a chance to steal four points on a road trip against two very, very good teams. We get three but the fourth is there. They add up. It's definitely a tough one."
The Sabres lead the NHL with nine overtime/shootout losses this season and have lost 12 games overall by one goal. Conversely, the Blackhawks lead the NHL with 15 one-goal wins.
"It's just tough. We all really wanted that second point," Eichel said. "It's just been the tale of our season. We get to these situations and we're not able to put a stamp on the game. It's why we find ourselves out of the playoffs and far back."
Indeed, the Sabres fell back into last place in the Atlantic Division with the defeat. But they did pick up another point on the playoff teams and are seven behind both Ottawa and Boston after opening the week 10 points in arrears. A key issue though is they're also behind four other teams.
Anisimov's tying goal was his second of the game and came after Zach Bogosian failed to wrap him up in front of Anders Nilsson. Kane had looped a backhander from the boards that deflected and tipped off Nilsson in front, but Anisimov beat Bogosian to the puck as the crowd of 21,824 went wild
The Hawks had a couple more chances to win in regulation but the Sabres at least got the game to OT. With the building in an uproar, the Sabres were on their heels in the extra period as Chicago got the only three shots on goal.
The end came on a Ryan O'Reilly turnover that sent the Hawks the other way. Toews shot, Nilsson made a pad save and Patrick Kane beat Evander Kane to the puck and banged the rebound home as the red-clad crowd exploded.
"It was a bad decision," O'Reilly said. "I had possession of the puck and I should have curled up with it, kept possession and then got the change. It's just a bad play by myself."
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma agreed.
"We need to turn back and have possession, get a change and get all three guys off the ice," he said. "We brought it into the offensive zone and it ends up with them coming back the other way."
In the end, the Sabres couldn't keep down Kane. He finished the night with a goal and two assists, his third game of the season with at least three points and his first since a Nov. 1 win over Calgary.
"The guy is a dangerous player," said Bylsma. "He was dangerous a lot tonight."
The Hawks were talking about this win as a real springboard, even though they came into the game leading the Western Conference. They were in a 1-4-1 rut and had dropped three straight at home, heading into a stretch of four straight games in the Madhouse on Madison.
"That could be a huge win for us," said Kane, whose goal was his 12th of the season. "You lose that one, maybe you start losing a little confidence."
Even at age 28, in his 10th season in the league and after winning three Stanley Cups, the goal still had a deeper meaning to Kane.
"That was my childhood, right? Growing up going to Sabres games," he said. "Sometimes it's surreal that you're actually playing against them."
You could say it was surreal the Sabres were even in a spot to win this game given the way it started. The Hawks had the game's first eight shots, 11 of the first 12 and the count was 20-6 after one period.
Nilsson was sensational in the period, making several point-blank saves and allowing the Sabres to escape it still tied at 1-1. Eichel called it "standing on his head" goaltending and it certainly was. On the night, Nilsson made 39 saves as the Hawks outshot Buffalo, 43-20, and had 81 attempts at the net.
"They have some very good skill on that team," Nilsson said. "And when they put those guys out there for 3-on-3, they're going to come and create scoring chances. Toews made a good play to put it far-pad and Kane came in the middle and banged in the rebound."
The loss ruined a big effort from Eichel, who tied his career high by extending his point streak to five games while playing a career-high 23:30. He also was tenacious in the Hawks' zone, causing a Brent Seabrook turnover that lead to Marcus Foligno's goal in the first period and harassing Duncan Keith enough to give Kyle Okposo room to score on the power play late in the second.
"He was one of our guys that was driving the bus tonight," Bylsma said.
But Eichel didn't start the OT as Bylsma went up front with O'Reilly and Evander Kane, who was minus-3 in the game. Eichel got out only briefly, just as the game-winning goal was being scored.
"We fought to get a point in this game and we need to keep doing it," Bylsma said. "We've put ourselves in a situation where we've got to keep winning hockey games and keep playing to win them. You see that fight in our team."