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Kane helps Blackhawks top Sabres in homecoming

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO – Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane continued his strong offensive play on Saturday and came up clutch against his hometown team.

Kane, a Buffalo native, scored to tie the game late, and scored in the shootout and Corey Crawford stopped all three shooters to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center.

Kane was the only player to score in the shootout. He skated in slowly against Sabres goalie Chad Johnson, deked, and put a backhand over Johnson after he attempted to poke the puck away.

"You're coming back home, I get to do this once a year, and haven't done it for a couple years because I was injured last year," Kane said. "This is my fifth game here in my ninth season. It's special every time you come back. I pretty much grew up in this rink and have a lot of childhood memories. It's fun playing, fun being in this building, lot of friends, lot of family, some 88 jerseys out there. Overall when you get that finish and end up winning the game it becomes a great day."

Kane tied the game, 2-2 with 33.5 seconds left in the third period with a power-play goal. With Sabres defensemen Josh Gorges and Rasmus Ristolainen in the penalty box and Crawford pulled for an extra skater, Kane received a pass from Artemi Panarin and took a slap shot that beat Johnson for his 20th goal of the season.

It is the ninth straight season to start his career that Kane has scored at least 20 goals, making him the first U.S. born player to do that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Kane has scored a point in 28 of the past 29 games.

"We made it a little tough on ourselves to make it come down to the end there," Kane said. "Didn't have a power play all game and we got two at the end there, so it was nice that we took advantage of it. Great pass by [Panarin] there, and nice to finish it off and tie it up. Definitely a special ending."

Kane's tying goal came 6-on-3 as Joel Quenneville pulled Crawford with 1:27 left in the third period. It was Chicago's first power-play opportunity of the game.

"It's a great comeback," Quenneville said. "It's 1-1 and it looks like we're heading to overtime the way the third was being played. Then we were in a real tough spot and got a fortunate break at the end with a 5-on-3. Took almost the whole two minutes to put in, but it was a great finish for that play. Overtime was different because it was the first time we played it where there was an ending to it and the shootout, and there was no 3-on-3 at all. Maybe that's why it went to a shootout, and obviously a big two points for us."

Sabres forward Ryan O'Reilly nearly scored an empty-net goal with 1:05 left in the third period, but the puck went just wide of the net. Moments later, Kane tied the game.

"That's just the way it goes sometimes," Sabres defenseman Cody Franson said. "It's the right play, just unlucky, a couple bounces down there, didn't go. I thought our killers did a great job."

The Blackhawks (19-11-4) have won six of their past eight games.

The Sabres (14-16-4) lost two out of three games in their three-game homestand.

O'Reilly gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead with 3:20 remaining in the third period. He took a pass from behind the net by Sam Reinhart and took a wrist shot from the side of the net that got past Crawford on his blocker side for his 12th goal of the season.

"That's a big time play," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "Ryan does a good job in the corner getting away from [Brent] Seabrook and makes the play to Sam and Sam just shows a ton of patience. He's drifting over the goalie's left shoulder and he's drifting way back there and makes a feed. It's an empty net, it's half-empty, but Crawford looked over his left shoulder and was looking over there and the puck's gone the other way. It's a pretty spectacular passing play by that line."

O'Reilly has 12 points in his past 11 games.

"It's about results. It's embarrassing, pathetic and it's not good enough," O'Reilly said. "Embarrassed missing in shootout. … That's not leadership. You have to close that. It's not acceptable."

Dennis Rasmussen gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead 6:04 into the first period. Rasmussen took a pass from Michal Rozsival and accelerated past Sabres forward Evander Kane and took a wrist shot which went over Johnson's glove for his third goal of the season.

"[Rasmussen]'s played well since he's been up," Quenneville said. "I think that he's been useful in the middle, defensively responsible, has got some strength and some size. Today was a big goal and I think his offensive production has probably been higher than we expected and it's been a good fit for us right away."

Franson made it 1-1 6:37 into the second period with his third goal of the season. He took a quick wrist shot after he pinched in from the blue line when Jack Eichel sent the puck around the boards. Crawford went behind the net and missed the puck when he tried to play it and was out of position when Franson took his shot.

"It was coming around and kind of jumped on him," Franson said. "I think [Crawford] maybe just kind of thought about the play for a half second or something. I'm not too sure. I just tried to get down and throw it on net."

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