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Kane, Toews help Blackhawks squeak past Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- Patrick Kane's Buffalo homecoming was a successful one.

Jonathan Toews scored 1:34 into the third period to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 2-1 victory against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Sunday night.

Toews tapped in a cross-crease pass from linemate Brandon Saad to beat Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth for his 25th goal. The win was Chicago's third in the past four games.

"I think near the end we were playing better and a little more responsibly and holding on to the puck," Toews said. "A couple good plays by [Andrew Shaw] and [Saad] there with us going hard to the net and just found a loose puck again."

Kane, a Buffalo native, gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead 3:12 into the first period. He poked the puck around Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, used Ehrhoff's defense partner Chad Ruhwedel as a screen and fired a wrist shot over the glove hand of Enroth for his 28th goal.

"I just tried to make a move around the defenseman there," Kane said. "It got a little bit ahead of me, and I caught up with it. I shot through the screen. I don't think the goalie really saw it. I didn't even really see it; I just saw a bit of the crowd cheering and my teammates. It's a good feeling."

Scoring highlight-reel goals is something Kane's done regularly in his seven seasons in the NHL.

"We're pretty used to that by now," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "We get kind of spoiled here in Chicago to see that skill level on a day-to-day basis. For teams and fans that haven't seen him, it's fun to watch."

It was Kane's first game back in his hometown since Oct. 11, 2010, and his third goal in Buffalo.

"It's always emotions and different feelings going through my mind when I come back here," Kane said. "But it was nice to score early and kind of settle down after that."

Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya each had an assist for the Blackhawks, who play the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Wednesday in a key Central Division game.

One of the strong points of the game for the Blackhawks was the penalty kill. Chicago went 5-for-5 while down a man, including two key kills in the third period.

"I think we're all on the same page," Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford said. "We're working as a unit, getting the puck down. I know it doesn't seem like much, but you can ask our guys on the power play when they've got to come back all the way 200 feet and grab the puck and then rush up again, it kind of gets annoying after a while. We've been doing really well at getting the puck all the way down the ice, blocking shots; it seems just a combination of everything. Everything you need our guys on the [penalty kill] to do we've been able to do."

In their past 17 games, the Blackhawks have given up six power-play goals, killing off 55 of 61 (90.2 percent) shorthanded situations.

"I think confidence is part of it," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of the penalty-kill success. "You're always going to have some good stretches and bad stretches, and we certainly had a bad stretch for too long for us, but I like how we're trending."

Buffalo's Tyler Ennis thought he scored the tying goal at 5:23 of the first period after he stole the puck from Crawford, but the goal was waved off because the officials ruled he hooked Crawford to gain an advantage.

"I've never seen that before," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "Tyler never really hooked him, or he just tried to bang the puck. It's just one of those things. You can't touch too many goaltenders."

Drew Stafford did make it a 1-1 game at 9:11 of the first, however, when he scored his 11th goal. Ennis found a streaking Cory Conacher, who deked and drew Crawford out of his crease. Conacher found Stafford at the side of the net, and Stafford stuffed the puck into the net.

"I wasn't trying to pass that backdoor, I was trying to score that," Conacher said. "It was nice that Stafford was there on the backdoor to finish that one off. But yeah, it was a nice play by Ennis to start that off."

Conacher was playing in his first game with the Sabres after being claimed off waivers from the Ottawa Senators on March 5.

Crawford stopped 19 shots; Enroth made 29 saves.

The Sabres have lost three of four games. They return to action Tuesday when they host the Nashville Predators.

"I don't think Chicago really wanted to play tonight," Enroth said. "We feel pretty good about ourselves. We played a pretty solid game."

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