By Scott King
Despite leading the Central Division virtually all season long, and the league at times, things were trending downward for the Blackhawks. After dropping the Winter Classic in St. Louis on Monday, the Hawks lost five of their last six games and only grabbed three of their last twelve possible points.
The Hawks had the right approach Thursday night at home vs. the Buffalo Sabres. Two of the main issues sending them into a recent slump were not enough possession and not enough shots.
The Blackhawks came out firing with 20 shots in the first period, 11 through 6:30 into the game, and a whole lot of offensive zone time. The team finished with 43 shots on goal.
Marcus Foligno scored for the Sabres at 7:21 in the first period. Buffalo needed the lift after facing an 11-1 shot deficit prior to the goal. Ryan Hartman split two defenders and picked the right corner to tie it 1-1 at 16:20 in the first period. It was his seventh goal of the season.
Sabres forward Kyle Okposo scored on a power play with under two minutes remaining in the second period, but Artem Anisimov answered back for the Hawks to make it 2-2.
Jack Eichel scored from a one-timer on the power play at 1:10 in the third period to make it 3-2 Sabres. Anisimov scored again at 17:56 in the third to get the Hawks extra time. It was his 18th goal of the season, which leads the Hawks.
Patrick Kane scored 56 seconds into overtime to get the Hawks two points and put them back on the right track. The final score was 4-3.
“We had a great start to the game,” Kane said. “We found ourselves down 1-0, Hartsy (Ryan Hartman) scores a big goal, and after that I thought we really controlled the play. They had a couple chances here and there, and a couple good shifts, couple goals on the penalty kill there.
“[We] found a way. That could be a huge win for us here, especially you look at the halfway point in the season, you lose that one, maybe you start losing a little confidence. Huge win, a couple huge goals by Anisimov there to get us a point, then nice to get the extra one in OT.”
Forward Spencer Abbott played his first game with the Hawks Thursday night. Abbott played in his first, and only, NHL game with the Maple Leafs in 2013. His 21 points shared the team lead in Rockford before the call-up. He played in the Swedish Hockey League last year.
The Hamilton, Ontario native jumped right into the Hawks’ top six alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said Abbott “was alright” in his Hawks debut.
Back In Red
Thursday night Hawks winger Marian Hossa drew back into the lineup. The forward was placed on injured reserve December 27, retroactive to December 20. Hossa grabbed 16 goals and seven assists before being being sidelined.
Defenseman Michal Kempny assisted on Artem Anisimov’s first goal. He has points (2 goals, 2 assists) in three straight games for the Hawks.
Not So Special Teams
After killing 24 of their last 26 penalties, the Hawks allowed two goals on three Buffalo power plays. Chicago was 0-for-2 on their power play.
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