Updated: March 9, 2014 11:33PM
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The first two periods of Sunday’s game between the Blackhawks and Sabres at First Niagara Center were somehow both an endorsement and an indictment of the NHL’s new schedule, which has every team play in every city every season. It brought hometown hero Patrick Kane to Buffalo. But it also pit two teams with no history against each other — their last meeting was Oct. 11, 2010 — in a matchup with little energy and less tension.
But things picked up considerably in the third period, and the Hawks survived the brief interlude in a tense Western Conference stretch run with a third-period Jonathan Toews goal for a 2-1 victory over the Sabres. The win kept the Hawks within four points of the Blues.
“It’s a tricky game,” said Corey Crawford, who made 20 saves for the win. “It was good for us to play in a tight game like that where we come out on top [even though] we only scored two goals.”
Kane wasted little time showing off for his friends, fans and family in the crowd, scoring his 28th goal — just two shy of his career high — just 3:12 into the game. But after having a goal waved off for a questionable penalty, the Sabres tied it up midway through the first on a Drew Stafford goal.
After a sleepy second period, the third was surprisingly action-packed. Toews gave the Hawks the lead 94 seconds into the period, finishing off a nice passing play with Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad. The Hawks held on from there, killing off the Sabres’ fifth power play of the night, and with Crawford making a couple big stops during a wild final few minutes.
“We got a little loose,” Joel Quenneville said. “We kept trying stuff, and kept being in our end and made it a little too crazy at the end. But we’ll take two points.”