The way the Blackhawks’ three-game road trip ended made it feel like the entire swing out west was a failure. Any time a three-goal lead evaporates in less than four minutes it hurts. But even with an overtime loss in Vegas to close out the trip, the Hawks brought home five out of six possible points.
They got home in time to watch the Sabres play in New York on Sunday night before flying to Chicago to take the ice at the United Center. And the Blackhawks took advantage of the tired Sabres early.
Taylor Raddysh has been a nice addition to the offense since he came over from Tampa, and he continued producing. He made a nice pass to Calvin de Haan to set up Chicago’s first goal.
Dominik Kubalik poached the second assist from Jonathan Toews with a slight deflection of the pass intended for Raddysh.
A little less than six minutes later, Sam Lafferty put together a shift for his personal highlight reel. He trucked a guy in the corner, got up and got back into position to redirect a shot perfectly past the netminder for Chicago’s second goal of the night.
Jake McCabe and Tyler Johnson picked up the assists on Lafferty’s goal. Johnson was activated out of concussion protocol before the game and took the place of Kirby Dach in the lineup; Dach was out sick (non-COVID).
Three minutes after the Lafferty goal while the Blackhawks were on a power play, Toews made a vintage Toews play and finished for his tenth goal of the season.
Kubalik and Philipp Kurashev picked up the helpers on Toews’ power play goal. With Kubalik registering two points in a period, I immediately went out and bought PowerBall tickets.
After 20 minutes, Chicago had a 3-0 lead. Both teams were credited with eight shots on goal, but Kevin Lankinen wasn’t tested much at all.
Seth Jones was the lucky trailer just 81 seconds into the second period and sniped his fifth of the year to extend Chicago’s lead to four.
Things felt pretty good with a four-goal lead…. right?
Victor Olofsson scored a power play goal for Buffalo at 4:50 to end Lankinen’s shutout bid.
Olofsson cut the lead in half with his second goal of the period at 10:24 and suddenly what appeared to be a solid effort for the Blackhawks was falling apart at the seams.
When Kyle Okposo scored almost four minutes later, the Sabres had all of the momentum and the Blackhawks were on their heels. Head coach Derek King opted to not use his timeout after the third goal. But his team simply stopped making good passes once the fourth goal was scored and the Sabres were making them pay for careless puck control and lazy defense.
The Hawks held onto the lead, but it was only one when the horn sounded to close out the middle stanza. Buffalo out-shot the Hawks 15-5 in the period and out-scored Chicago 3-1.
It felt all too familiar after the third period in Vegas on Saturday afternoon. Great efforts wasted because this team doesn’t seem to know how to play 60 good minutes at a time has become an exhausting trend this season.
Less than two minutes into the third period, Seth Jones saved Lankinen’s tail as he was well out of the net and Jeff Skinner circled the wagons and had a wide open cage into which he could have tied the game. Not an ideal start… and less than one minute later Blackhawks legend Vinnie Hinostroza tied the game.
And even the Blackhawks’ own Twitter account was embarrassed.
At 9:40 into the third, Laffety perfectly baited Hinostroza into a retaliatory whack while the official was watching and Chicago got a power play. On the PP, Alex DeBrincat gave the Blackhawks the lead again.
Patrick Kane and Strome picked up the helpers on DeBrincat’s 38th of the season.
Chicago held the lead for almost seven minutes, but couldn’t finish regulation. With 2:14 left, Alex Tuch tied the game. Reese Johnson lost track of him and the rest of the Hawks were staring at the puck instead of… you know, playing the game.
And with 69 seconds left in regulation, Strome was caught hooking Jeff Skinner on the doorstep (he might have taken away a goal) and the Hawks went short-handed in the closing moments of regulation.
With ten seconds left in regulation, the Sabres scored about as lucky of a goal as you’ll ever see. Tage Thompson’s stick shattered; his shot went wide of the net. But it bounced back and caught Lankinen on the back of the skate and went into the cage for the go-ahead goal. Thompson was skating to the bench to get a fresh stick when the puck went in.
Lankinen went ballistic, smashing his stick on the post. He didn’t get much help in the final 40 minutes, but he needed to make a couple saves to keep his team in the game.
And the Chicago Blackhawks found yet another creative way to lose a game.
The Buffalo Sabres rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Chicago Blackhawks tonight, 6-5.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 29, 2022
Prior to tonight, the last time Buffalo successfully overcame a 4-goal deficit was Jan. 21, 1989 (a 6-5 OT win over the Bruins in Boston). pic.twitter.com/6OrnErqj5u
Chicago’s defense was atrocious in the second and third periods, and the offense that looked great for 22 minutes completely disappeared.
On a positive note, Kane has had one helluva month.
Most points by a #Blackhawks player in one calendar month:— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) March 29, 2022
29- Bobby Hull (December 1964)
29- Stan Mikita (February 1970)
28- Denis Savard (November 1987)
27- Savard (January 1986)
26- Patrick Kane (March 2022 via 1 assist vs BUF tonight)
26- Hull (Dec 1965)
26- Mikita (Dec 1967) pic.twitter.com/8FIof2yZcu