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Mike Harrington: Lots of 'Showtime' as Hawks dominate

This was an old-fashioned butt kicking. The Chicago Blackhawks have won 11 straight against the Sabres and were on a different level during Sunday's 5-1 dismantling in KeyBank Center.

The first four Chicago goals were each scored by a different line. The Hawks were sound defensively and goalie Scott Darling wasn't tested all that much. But what did so many of the red jerseys around the arena come to see?

It took until the third period, but they got their share of Showtime.

That's the word Patrick Kane bellows after some of his more patented, sick-mitted goals and he had that moment with his coup de grace in the third period to close the night's scoring.

Artemi Panarin got the puck on a diagonal through the offensive zone to Kane, off to the left of Robin Lehner and with Josh Gorges helplessly stuck in the middle in front of the crease. With Gorges fruitlessly reaching, it was a danglefest for Kane.

When it was over, he cooly slipped a backhand around Lehner into the empty cage for his 20th goal of the season. That's 10 NHL seasons, 10 seasons of 20 or more goals for the South Buffalo native.

Kane burst behind the net, dropped to his knees, pumped his fist, let out a "Showtime" yell and egged on the red-clad Hawks fans behind the glass in Section 120. They were the lucky ones, picked out of all the red around the building to share the moment.

"I don't even know what I was saying. It's a little bit kind of blacked out in that moment," Kane said sheepishly. "I was a little bit too jacked up for a 5-1 goal. It's always fun to score in Buffalo. Sometimes in the first or second period, you're thinking about entertaining everyone that's here but you just kind of settle in and play hockey."

Kane has played 13 games against the Sabres in his career, compiling eight goals and 15 points.

"He only gets to play here once a year and I remember the first couple games playing in Chicago, I probably overdid my 'celly' at the end a little bit too," said Darling, a Chicago native. "It's an emotional game, exciting for us to play in our home cities. I was super happy for him to have a highlight reel goal like that."

The Hawks have won three Stanley Cups and even through all their salary-cap issues, they've hardly lost a beat. Look who did the Sabres in Sunday. Ageless Marian Hossa. Captain Jonathan Toews, who has 16 points in his last 11 games and is shaking his World Cup hangover. A 24-minute, plus-2 night from defense stalwart Duncan Keith.

And don't forget Kane's touch-pass assist to Artem Anisimov after another Panarin feed started the tic-tac-toe play that made it 4-1.

"He keeps getting better," said coach Joel Quenneville. "He just seems like he can elevate his game. His strength, quickness, playmaking and him wanting the puck. He's got a nice thing going with the 'Bread Man' (Panarin) and that line has been outstanding over the last year and change. You can only say great things about him because he's so special."

"The goal 'Kaner' had tonight, not many guys can do stuff like that," said rookie Ryan Hartman, whose 14th of the season was a bar-down special in the first period. "Just learning stuff from all the veterans, you see how they bring it every night, how they prepare, how they rest their body up for each and every game. It's good for us young guys to watch and learn. They've been here a long time and they know what they're doing."

The Blackhawks came off their bye week Saturday and lost – like most everybody has done in their first game so far – but outshot Edmonton, 39-22, and probably felt like they deserved better than a 3-1 defeat.

They were motoring in that game and were certainly going in this one as well.

Even though they had won 10 in a row against Buffalo, the Hawks knew to be wary because they've had some heart-stoppers with the Sabres in recent seasons.

Just last month in United Center, it took a tying goal with 2:04 left in regulation and a Kane overtime goal for Chicago to beat Buffalo. Last season, a week before Christmas, the Hawks got an early holiday present here in the form of a 6-on-3 in the final minute of regulation and Kane scored a tying goal to set Chicago up for a shootout victory.

And who could forget April 3, 2015 – at the height of tank hysteria – when it looked like a Buffalo team bound for 54 points was going to pull off a stunner until Toews reversed a 3-2 deficit with two goals in the final two minutes to produce a 4-3 victory.

"Very fortunate our last two times in here and pulling one out earlier in the year against them," Quenneville said. "Exactly how their team is going, they're getting better. They're deeper. They're playing better than when we saw them last."

The Hawks had to work hard through about 27 minutes of this one. They had 16 of the game's first 21 shots on goal but only left the first period in a 1-1 tie when Jack Eichel found Evander Kane in front with 5.6 seconds left to get the Sabres even. But Hossa and Toews scored in yet another ugly Buffalo second period and that was that.

(A quick aside here: Isn't it to the point where it seems unfathomable that the Sabres could trade Evander Kane. Seriously now, are you trying to win or not?)

For his part, Patrick Kane isn't having the kind of year he had last season, when he rolled up 46 goals and 106 points to win a Hart Trophy in the wake of all the off-ice controversy that dogged him in his hometown in the summer of 2015.

He's at 20 goals and 60 points through 59 games but the Hawks are bent on avenging last year's first-round playoff loss to St. Louis. Kane is 28 now, one of the veterans of this group.

"It's crazy. It's almost sad how fast it goes by," he said. "At the same time, I still feel really good on the ice, still feel maybe not as young as I used to be but I still feel pretty young and fortunate to be with this franchise on a great team. Hopefully a lot of great years left."

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