BUFFALO, N.Y. – First, Patrick Kane gave his family and friends something to cheer about by scoring a highlight-reel goal Sunday night in a rare trip home to Buffalo.
Then, Kane stuck around an hour after the Blackhawks’ 2-1 victory over the Sabres, by posing for pictures and signing autographs in the stands.
As homecomings go, Kane’s was nearly complete except that his beloved grandfather Donald Kane was not around to see it after his death last month.
“No matter what, you’re going to miss him,” Kane said after only his fourth NHL game at Buffalo. “But life goes on, and I think more importantly, I have a lot of family here at the game that came and supported me.”
Coach Joel Quenneville saw a jump during a performance in which Kane snapped a five-game goal drought that began after his grandfather’s death.
“I thought Kane was special,” Quenneville said. “He was a threat and had the puck on his stick tonight: very dangerous and nice to see him play well here at home.”
Kane opened the scoring 3:12 in by capping a breath-taking rush. Bursting past defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, Kane snapped a shot through the legs of defenseman Chad Ruhwedel that beat goalie Jhonas Enroth over the left shoulder.
Kane nearly made it 2-1 with 8 minutes left in the second period, when he got in alone behind the Sabres’ defense only to have his backhander stopped by Enroth. He also scored into an empty net, but a second after the final horn sounded.
Captain Jonathan Toews secured the win by scoring the go-ahead goal 1:34 into the third period.
Corey Crawford stopped 20 shots, and the Hawks (38-13-14) snapped a two-game road skid.
Drew Stafford scored for the league-worst Sabres (19-37-8), who had a three-game home winning streak snapped.
Stafford capped a nifty three-way passing play to tie the score midway through the first period. Tyler Ennis started it by finding trailing forward Cory Conacher driving up the left wing. Conacher drew Crawford from out of the net and slipped a pass into the crease where Stafford jammed it in after his first chance was blocked by Brent Seabrook.
The assist for Ennis made up for a goal he had disallowed a few minutes earlier, when he was called for hooking Crawford.
“I didn’t think it was a penalty, and frustrated that I had the goal taken away,” Ennis said. “But I don’t think that was the turning point.”
The difference was the Sabres’ ongoing difficulties on offense, which has managed a league-low 122 goals.
Buffalo’s power play went 0-for-5 on Sunday, and is 0-for-10 over its past four games.
“What do we take out of that one?” Ennis said. “One: Jhony’s playing great. Two: We’ve got to stay out of the box. And, three: Our power play’s got to be better.”
Enroth stopped 29 shots and had little chance on either of the two goals he gave up.
With the game tied at 1 and the Sabres mounting a threat in Chicago’s end to open the third period, Toews answered by capping a 3-on-2 rush the other way. Andrew Shaw crossed Buffalo’s blue line and found Brandon Saad breaking up the right wing. Saad drew Enroth his way before steering a pass through the crease to Toews, who then snapped it in the open side.
It was Toews’ 25th goal of the season and sixth in four games.
Toews has shown little sign of a post-Olympic hangover after he helped Canada win a gold medal at Sochi.
“I think he’s returned from the Olympics in great shape, very confident,” Quenneville said. “He just seems to have the knack, has good pace with it, has the puck a lot as well. And when he’s around the net, he’s getting rewarded.”
The Blackhawks extended their win streak to five games against the Sabres. And with 90 points, they jumped into third place in the Western Conference standings, a point ahead of idle San Jose.
NOTES: Kane was the last Chicago player off the ice following pregame warmups and got a big cheer after flipping a puck into a large crowd of Blackhawks jersey-wearing fans behind the team’s bench. ... Sabres C Conacher made his debut with Buffalo since being claimed Wednesday, a day after being waived by Ottawa. Conacher played college at Buffalo’s Canisius and is from nearby Burlington, Ontario. ... The Sabres suspended D Rostislav Klesla for failing to report to the team’s AHL affiliate in Rochester. Acquired in a trade with Washington on Wednesday, Klesla told Canadian broadcaster TSN that he intended to not finish the NHL season, and instead planned to continue his career in Europe.