CHICAGO -- It wasn't pretty, it wasn't the kind of hockey the Chicago Blackhawks are known for playing, but it's a win at home and they'll take it.
Despite being outshot 41-21 by visiting Buffalo, the Hawks got their first home win of the season by beating the Sabres 4-3 in front of 21,293 fans at United Center on Saturday night.
It took third-period goals by Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp and a series of great saves by goalie Marty Turco late in the third to seal the deal, but eventually the Hawks left with two hard-earned points. Buffalo, meanwhile, dropped its fifth straight including one overtime loss.
"That was not a pretty game," said Turco, who stopped 38 shots. "We strive for them, but that was far from it. We weren't our best in the first (period), but as the game went on, we just kept getting better and better. It (stinks) when you lose ugly games, but it sure feels pretty good when you win one."
It sure seemed as if they were headed for another home loss before Bolland netted his first goal of the season 9:36 into the third to tie it 3-3. After collecting the puck outside the Buffalo zone, Bolland beat defenseman Craig Rivet with a speed burst, skated in front of Buffalo goalie Patrick Lalime and shot the puck between the pads.
The goal couldn't have come at a better time for the Hawks (3-2-1). It breathed new life into a building full of fans growing progressively upset with how badly Chicago was being topped in shots and puck possession.
The Sabres poured on the shots, but Turco and the Hawks' penalty killers were up to the challenge -- stonewalling Buffalo on six power plays, including a big one late.
"It's very disappointing, that's for sure," said Lalime, who stopped 17 shots in his first start of the season. "We deserved better. We put (together) a great effort tonight. We had a lot of chances, and they basically scored on the chances they had. That was the difference."
With the crowd still juiced from Bolland's goal, Sharp then got his fifth tally of the season and fourth in two nights almost three minutes later thanks to a nifty play by Tomas Kopecky -- who slid a blind pass to Sharp for the eventual game-winner at 12:52 of the third. It was Kopecky's sixth assist of the season, third in the League.
Sharp said it was a charged atmosphere and felt a lot more important than just an early-season win.
"It was a little different game, a little more intense than what we've had to this point in the season," he said. "There was a lot of physical play, a lot of talking back and forth."
That had to do with Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson's hit in Buffalo on Jason Pominville, who is still out while recovering from a concussion. There was a little bluster by the Sabres about getting even with Hjalmarsson in this game, but there were no dirty hits taken and no huge slugfests.
"I think they took a few runs at (Hjalmarsson), but they were honest and clean and fair about it," Sharp said. "That's the way we like to see it. It was two teams that played hard out there, lots of respect on either side. Nobody likes to see people get hurt the way it happened in Buffalo, but I think it was classy on their part to play hard and try to hit him. There was no dirty stuff at all."
The Sabres instead tried to get even on the scoreboard.
They led 2-1 at the first break after outshooting the Hawks 19-9 in an action-packed first period. The period had plenty of shots, a few big hits and a couple of odd plays that resulted in a goal and a disallowed goal -- both in the Sabres' favor.
Sharp started the scoring 6:25 into the game by grabbing a loose puck that hopped over a stick at the Chicago blue line. He skated it into the Buffalo zone and fired it past Lalime for a 1-0 lead.
Buffalo tied it 1-1 just 27 seconds later on a goal by Drew Stafford, who backhanded a long rebound past Turco off a shot by defenseman Steve Montador. The Sabres scored again at 7:07 on their first lucky break of the period.
Paul Gaustad threw a shot on goal during a rush and the puck deflected off Hawks defenseman Nick Leddy's skate into the goal before Leddy was pushed into the net by Nathan Gerbe, knocking it off its moorings.
The goal was reviewed and allowed because the puck crossed the line before the net came loose. Buffalo caught its second stroke of luck at 13:47 of the first, when Kopecky was knocked into Lalime -- who went down and got caught up with Montador's skate, which pinned him to the ice.
Duncan Keith fired a 57-foot slap shot into the open goal from near the boards, but the goal was disallowed because Kopecky had knocked over Lalime. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was furious, but the call stood and the Sabres went into the locker room up a goal.
The lead didn't last for long.
Hawks forward Marian Hossa tied it 2-2 just 1:04 into the second thanks to a perfect stretch pass by defenseman Brent Seabrook, who caught the Sabres on a line change. Seabrook fired the pass to the tape of Hossa's stick in the neutral zone and Hossa broke in free on Lalime.
He deked and then beat Lalime stick side for his fifth goal of the season. Hossa has points in all six games for the Hawks.
Once again, though, the Sabres went back out front on Cody McCormick's first goal of the season 17:15 into the second. McCormick got the puck right in front of Turco and was able to take a couple of whacks at it before it finally trickled into the goal.
The Sabres took a 3-2 lead into the third, after outshooting the Hawks for a second straight period. Buffalo held a 29-16 advantage in shots after two periods, which is completely the opposite of what Quenneville wanted to see.
"It was tough to watch there for the first period," he said. "They took it to us in every fashion. Lucky to come out of it 2-1 and even after the second we're 3-2, one-goal game and we're very fortunate to be in the hockey game. We got ourselves into the game and at the end of the night … pretty fortunate to win."
1 - 0 CHI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 BUF
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 BUF
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 CHI
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