As the boos reigned down from the 18,000-plus on hand at First Niagara Center, Patrick Kane scored the game-tying goal with 33 seconds to play in regulation.
It didn’t seem to faze the South Buffalo native, who had his franchise best 26-game point streak snapped four days ago.
“I’m on the road team. They’re cheering for the Sabres. Sometimes that gets you into the game a little, too," the 27-year-old said.
Kane, who missed playing in the Queen City last year due to injury, suited up in his hometown for the first time since being accused of rape over the summer. The investigation concluded in November after Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita decided not to press charges.
Every time he touched the puck he was booed.
"I didn’t really have expectations," Kane said. "Some of the guys were laughing on the bench saying I was getting booed. And some guys said I was getting cheered. Sometimes, you try to block that stuff out. You hear it as the game goes on as it gets louder as it gets down to crunch time.”
In “crunch time” is when Kane is at his best on the ice.
For the better part of 58 minutes, the Sabres played some of their best hockey of the year, keeping both Kane and captain Jonathan Toews in check.
But, with Chicago skating 5-on-3 advantage, Kane found the back of the net, his 20th of the season.
After the game, Head Coach Dan Bylsma voiced his displeasure with the penalties to defenseman Josh Gorges and Rasmus Ristolainen that lead to the game-tying goal for Chicago.
“They did the thing they normally do. They run the play to Patrick and I think that’s the 3rd or 4th goal he’s had with a 5-on-3. We got right to the bitter end and they score,” Bylsma said.
“You look up and down their lineup, they have good players that can play tough against you. They can create offense and do a lot of different things. I’m happy for that team,” Kane said of the new-look Sabres. “But at the same time, we’ve been a team that finds ways to win, whether we play a good game or not.”
After forcing overtime and after a scoreless extra session, Kane again showed why he’s one of the best in the NHL, flipping a backhand over the glove of Chad Johnson, the game-winning goal in the shootout.
“I kind of looking at my tape there before I went down for the shootout and my forehand was messed up from overtime,” he said. “My backhand was clean so I thought it might be a good time to try that move.”
The Sabres have the next week off over the holidays and return to action Dec. 26 against Boston.
Chicago battles San Jose on Sunday.
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