We knew the story in Buffalo was going to be about Patrick Kane.
In his first trip back to his hometown since he was accused of rape, there were plenty of questions surrounding the Blackhawks superstar forward. How would he be received? How would he play? How would the Hawks handle a matinee against a team that just shutout the Anaheim Ducks? And would he make a significant impact as he usually does against the Sabres?
In the opening 40 minutes, Kane was quiet – but the fans were not. When he was introduced as part of the Hawks’ starting lineup, the reaction from the crowd was mixed. But every time Kane touched the puck, the booing became more and more pronounced.
Dennis Rasmussen scored his third goal in just his seventh game with the NHL club to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead in the first period. He continues to contribute while skating with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. Rasmussen won four of six faceoffs in 11:06 on Saturday afternoon.
The second period was dominated by the Sabres. Buffalo out-shot the Hawks 14-9 but the play on the ice wasn’t nearly that close. Corey Crawford misplayed a dump-in and took his time getting back in front of the net and Cody Franson made him pay, tying the game at 6:37 into the period.
Later in the second, Chicago faced their first Marcus Kruger-less penalty kill. Chicago handled the short-handed situation well with Artem Anisimov taking Kruger’s place on the PK unit.
The third period was more back-and-forth than the second, with both teams generating some scoring chances. With less than four minutes left in regulation, Sam Reinhart found Ryan O’Reilly with a pretty pass from behind the net and the Sabres were up 2-1.
But the Hawks got a golden opportunity with 2:33 left when both Josh Gorges and Rasmus Ristolainen were sent to the penalty box, giving Chicago a 5-on-3. Crawford was pulled for a sixth attacker late in the two-man advantage and Kane made his mark.
Kane’s 20th of the year tied the game, and Franson was then sent to the penalty box for cross-checking Jonathan Toews in front of the net as the goal was scored. Chicago couldn’t convert the additional power play that carried over for 86 seconds into the overtime; the Hawks’ first unit stayed on the ice for the duration of the 5-on-3.
In the overtime, Buffalo also got a power play opportunity when Andrew Shaw went to the box. Again without Kruger, the Hawks did a nice job of taking care of the penalty and the game went to the shootout.
As he has done so many times in the past, Kane embarrassed the goaltender tasked with stopping him one-on-one and the game ended with the Blackhawks escaping with a 3-2 decision.
Crawford made 25 saves during regulation and the overtime and three more in the shootout to earn the victory. This was the tenth time in his last 11 starts that Crawford has held the opposition to two goals or less.
Phillip Danault, recalled on Friday to take the place of Kruger, played well in his season debut. He won seven of 11 faceoffs and made a couple good plays in the defensive zone as well.
Chicago returns to the United Center to face the San Jose Sharks on Sunday before the holiday break.