CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 18: Jonathan Towes #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks (center) skates back to the bench with teammates (L-R) Brent Seabrook #7, Dave Bolland #36 and Patrick Kane #88 after scoring his second goal of the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the United Center on January 18, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Sabres 6-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Despite giving Ryan Miller the night off, the Buffalo Sabres met misfortune after misfortune as their road wins continue after a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
After losing 9 games in a row on the road, the Buffalo Sabres hoped to break their bad luck at the United Center. With Jhonas Enroth given the the starting duties, the road team hoped to put their 5-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings behind them and respond to both internal and external criticism of their competitive ability as they faced the Chicago Blackhawks.
In the early going, the Sabres seemed to be on their way, holding off an early wave of shots before Sabres' captain Jason Pominville opened the scoring on a breakaway after being set up on a long stretch pass by Jochen Hecht.
Chicago would respond, however, when rookie Andrew Shaw cleaned up a rebound from a hard Duncan Keith shot in front of the net for his fifth of the year, and took their first power play of the game when Mike Weber cleared the puck over the glass in his own zone.
Jonathan Toews put the Hawks ahead with his 25th goal of the season after being left alone around the crease by the Buffalo PK, and the Hawks would take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Pominville scored again for the Sabres on an early second period power play, but a critical gaffe by Ville Leino would spell trouble for the visitors. Attempting a drop pass between his own legs, the puck was pounced on by Duncan Keith, who quickly turned Marian Hossa loose on an unopposed breakaway. Firing the puck through Enroth's legs, the goal seemed to deflate the Sabres' bench, and the feeling intensified late in the period when Jimmy Hayes collected a long rebound and snapped a one-timer into the top corner of the net.
Chicago struck twice more in the third period, one coming from Dave Bolland with a long slap shot from the right faceoff circle, and the other coming when Toews tucked the puck in from a sharp angle on a 5 on 3 power play. The goal moved the Chicago captain into second place for goal scoring this season, and helped move his team into a tie with New York for the points lead in the NHL.
The game was never in question for Chicago. Instead, the larger questions revolved around the fate of the Sabres as a whole, who have managed a near total implosion after new owner Terry Pegula's commitment to bringing championship quality hockey to his home town, and the continuing scoring drought for Buffalo native Patrick Kane, who could not score even in a game where the Hawks seemed to convert at will.