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Long Way Down: Sabres 6, Blackhawks 5

This has all happened before and it will happen again.

Buffalo Sabres v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

After squandering a three-goal lead against the Vegas Golden Knights Saturday, the Blackhawks decided to one-up themselves by wasting a four-goal lead against the Buffalo Sabres, falling 6-5 in the final seconds of the game Monday night.

The Blackhawks opened the scoring 7:53 into the first period. Taylor Raddysh sold the fake shot from the slot before passing to Calvin de Haan, who one-timed the puck into the back of the net to make it 1-0. First time de Haan had ever scored twice in a season.

Sam Lafferty extended the Blackhawks lead at 13:44 in the period after an all-around excellent shift from the forward. He laid a major hit on Will Butcher then went to the front of the net to tip in Jake McCabe’s point shot.

The Blackhawks made it 3-0 before the first period ended for the second game in a row. On the power play, Jonathan Toews made a beautiful move around a defender in tight and flipped the puck over Dustin Tokarski.

Just 1:21 into the second period, Seth Jones added another goal to put the Blackhawks up 4-0. After a play of one-pass-too-many between Patrick Kane, Dylan Strome, and Alex DeBrincat that fizzled, DeBrincat managed to find the trailing Jones in the slot, who scored his fifth goal of the season.

Unfortunately, the Sabres dominated the rest of the second period with three goals in a span of about 10 minutes.

First, Victor Olofsson hammered a one-timer off a cross-ice pass from Dylan Cozens for a power play goal to get the Sabres on the board. The Blackhawks missed two key opportunities to gain possession of the puck which allowed the Sabres to set up multiple shot attempts prior to Olofsson’s goal.

Second, Olofsson one-timed the puck into the net — this time set up by Jeff Skinner from behind the goal line — to cut the Blackhawks lead to 4-2 at 10:24 in the middle frame. Erik Gustafsson tried to ring the puck around behind the net but it was intercepted by Skinner and no one was covering Olofsson in the circle.

The Sabres got within one after a double deflection beat Kevin Lankinen with 5:28 left in the period. Cozens’s shot from the high slot deflected off both Kyle Okposo and Gustafsson’s skates. Prior to the goal, the Blackhawks struggled and ultimately failed to clear the puck.

Then just 2:39 into the third period, Vinnie Hinostroza — you all remember him — tied the game at four. Ramus Dahlin’s point shot hit Jake McCabe in the stomach and Hinostroza nudged the loose puck past Lankinen.

The Blackhawks regained the lead at 10:56 in the final period while on the power play. Kane sent a royal road pass to DeBrincat, who picked his spot and buried the shot top-corner.

The Sabres proved they would not go quietly into the night and tied the game for a second time with 2:14 remaining in the game. Alex Tuch deflected a pass through traffic from Olofsson to make it 5-5.

Just when it looked like the Blackhawks would at least make it to overtime for the second game in a row, Thompson’s shot took a wonky bounce off the boards and the puck then hit Lankinen and into the net with just 12 seconds left in the game.

And, so, the Sabres defeated the Blackhawks 6-5.

Notes

  • It was déjà vu as the Blackhawks scored three goals in the first period and then squandered the lead. Not even adding a fourth goal before the comeback by the Sabres gave the Blackhawks any breathing room — they were tied before the three-minute mark of the third period and then they couldn’t hold onto another lead later in the period. Not good at all.
  • The Blackhawks allowed the Sabres to completely dictate play after the first period, and it showed in the shots. At 5-on-5 for the full game, the Sabres ended up with just about double the shot attempts (59-30), more than double the shots on goal (35-14), almost triple the scoring chances (28-9), and seven times the high danger chances (14-2). This was Chicago’s third worst game of the season in terms of high danger chances allowed and share (12.50 percent). And it was the Sabres who played last night.
  • Derek King was angry after the game — and he should be — but also, the Blackhawks haven’t really improved under him in terms of the fundamentals around puck possession, either. So while this is next-level dumb because of the opponent, it’s also not that surprising a team can walk all over the Blackhawks at this point.
  • This wasn’t Lankinen’s best game ever — his rebound control continues to be an issue — but many of the goals could have been avoided if the Blackhawks were better at very basic things like clearing the zone (goals 3 and 5) or or disrupting the opposing team’s cycle (goals 1, 4, 5). And again, look at what he faced — 11 of those high danger chances were on net with only three being after a rebound — and there were multiple deflected/tipped goals and whatever that weird bounce was on the sixth goal.
  • Now onto the positives, because there were some ... at least in the first period. Congrats to de Haan for scoring two goals for the first time in his career.
  • The adjective most used about Toews’ goal was “vintage,” which is very apt. It was just a slick move that was pretty common from the Toews of yesteryear. In addition to the move on his own goal, Toews had a lot of excellent zone entries this game, including the one prior to de Haan scoring.
  • Strome (2 A) and Kane (1 A) extended their point streaks to six games and DeBrincat (1 G, 1 A) extended his to six games. If nothing else, those three more than often than not will find their way onto the scorecard.
  • Raddysh now has five points in his six games as a Blackhawks and has looked every bit the top-six player he was always touted as a prospect. We’ve seen players come in to make an impact in the short terms before fizzling — Adam Gaudette, Alex Nylander to name two off-hand — so it’ll be interesting to see if Raddysh can finish the season strong and carry the good play into next season.
  • On the subject of puck possession, the hit from Lafferty prior to his goal is the perfect example of when we talk about beneficial or meaningful physicality: it was timed to result in a chance for the Blackhawks to gain possession of the puck. He assessed where the other players were on the ice and then skated into the hit from a specific angle so that the loose puck would likely go towards a Blackhawks player. Lafferty could have skated straight into the Buffalo player, but that might not have resulted in the puck going where he wanted, so he swooped around a bit for a better angle of pressure. There’s always people clamoring for more hard-hitting players, but the key has always been players who are smart with how they assert that physicality — like Lafferty did there, just like the Byfugliens or Bollands or Shaws (for the most part) did in the past.

Game Charts

Three stars

  1. Victor Olofsson (BUF) — 2 goals, 1 assist
  2. Tage Thompson (BUF) — 1 goal, 1 assist
  3. Alex Tuch (BUF) — 1 goal, 1 assist

What’s next

The Blackhawks have two days off before traveling to Sunrise on Thursday to face the Florida Panthers at 6 p.m.