BUFFALO, N.Y. – Jonathan Toews scored the go-ahead goal 1:34 into the third period, and the Blackhawks snapped a two-game road skid with a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night.
Patrick Kane celebrated his trip home to Buffalo by also scoring in helping the Blackhawks beat the Sabres for a fifth consecutive time. Cory Crawford made 20 saves in making his 12 straight start.
By improving to 3-3 since the end of the Olympic break, the Hawks (38-13-14) avoided its longest road losing streak since a six-game drought from Feb. 2 through 14, 2012.
Drew Stafford scored for the league-worst Sabres (19-37-8), who had a three-game home winning streak snapped.
With the game tied at 1 and the Sabres mounting a threat in the Hawks’ 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 goalie Jhonas 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.
The goal came a little more than a minute after Hawks goalie Cory Crawford got his right pad out to turn aside Cody Hodgson’s hard shot from the top of the right circle.
Kane was making only his fourth appearance in Buffalo, and was the last Hawk off the ice after pregame warmups and got a big cheer after flipping a puck into a large crowd of Hawks-jersey wearing fans in the stands at the team’s bench.
Kane opened the scoring by capping a great individual effort 3:12 in. Chasing down Patrick Sharp’s pass at the Sabres’ blue line, Kane blew around defender Christian Ehrhoff. Driving into the middle, Kane used defenseman Chad Ruhwedel as a screen by snapping a shot through his legs and over Enroth’s left shoulder.
The goal was Kane’s first in six games, a slump that coincided with the death of his beloved grandfather, Donald Kane, who lived next door to Kane’s home in south Buffalo.
The Sabres tied 5:59 later, when Stafford capped a nifty three-way passing play. 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.
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. The chance came during a 40-second stretch during which Enroth kicked out his left pad to stop Michal Handzus’ shot that was deflected in front, and hugged the left post to foil Patrick Sharp’s one-time from the lower right circle.
Enroth finished with 29 saves.
Crawford wasn’t nearly as busy, but still made several quality saves, including punching out his blocker to turn away Conacher’s shot from the slot midway through the second period.
Then came a marvelous glove save with 5:32 remaining, when Brian Flynn got in alone up the left side and snapped a shot aimed at the far side.
The Sabres had a goal disallowed 5:23 into the first period, when Ennis scored but was penalized for hooking Crawford, while the goalie was handling a loose puck in the slot. The officials did miss a call seconds earlier, when Buffalo’s Cody Hodgson was tripped in the corner by defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.
NOTES: Sabres C Conacher made his debut with Buffalo since being claimed Wednesday, a day after being waived by Ottawa. It’s a homecoming for Conacher who played college at Buffalo’s Canisius and is from nearby Burlington, Ontario. ... Blackhawks D David Rundblad made his debut with the Hawks since being acquired in a trade with Phoenix on Tuesday. ... 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.