Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 7-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Friday:
1. Patrick Kane shines in hometown
When Kane returns to Buffalo, he usually puts a show on in front of his hometown crowd. Well, he did it again.
Just 50 seconds into the second period, the former Hart Trophy winner scored his 30th goal of the season, which happened to be his 900th career point in the NHL. He's the fifth player in Blackhawks history to reach that mark. And he didn't stop there.
Kane later added two assists and an empty-net goal for his third four-plus point outing in five games, and seventh-multi-point effort in his past nine games. He extended his season-long point streak to 10 games, and has 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) over that span coming off a month in which he was named the NHL's third star of January.
With the four-point game, Kane went from fifth to second in the NHL with 75 points. He trails only Nikita Kucherov (79) for the league lead.
2. Cam Ward rises to the occasion
The Blackhawks may have scored seven goals, but it's hard to see them winning this game without Ward's performance. He stopped 40 of 43 shots for a save percentage of .930, and did his best to hold down the fort in the third period when the Sabres were outshooting the Blackhawks 11-0.
On the other side, Carter Hutton allowed four goals on 22 shots for a save percentage of .818 and was replaced in the third period by Linus Ullmark, who gave up two goals on seven shots for a save percentage of .714. Ward out-did both of them.
3. Answering back
After scoring the first three goals of the game, the Blackhawks gave up their first goal with 1:55 remaining in the middle frame that cut their lead to 3-1. But 1:34 later and 20.6 seconds before the period expired, Brandon Saad scored for the fourth time in five games to give his team a three-goal lead again. It was a great response.
But the Sabres came out of the third period flying, and scored twice within a 3:37 span to cut their deficit to 4-3. It felt like they were going to tie it up at any second.
But Connor Murphy scored his second of the season with 8:36 left in regulation that essentially iced the game as Kane eventually scored the empty-netter, and Saad added his second of the game with 46 seconds left. The Blackhawks never allowed Buffalo to even it up, and kept the Sabres at bay.
4. Shaking off a slow start
Going into Friday, the Sabres had already played in two games since the All-Star break. The Blackhawks were on a nine-day hiatus. And it showed early on.
The road team didn't record their first shot on goal until the 5:53 mark of the opening frame, and were outshot 14-7. Despite that, the Blackhawks got on the board first when Drake Caggiula scored his first goal as a member of the Blackhawks with 1:22 remaining.
Caggiula also added two assists for his first career three-point game and fourth multi-point effort of the season, his first with Chicago. He was finally rewarded on the scoresheet.