Blackhawks rookie Patrick Kane displayed his flair for the dramatic, but it was Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller who stole the spotlight.
Kane scored in his return to his hometown Saturday night — and in the process snapped a 13-game streak without a goal — but the Hawks fell to the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 at the HSBC Arena. The defeat gave the Hawks five in their last six games and dropped their overall record to 15-14-2.
Kane, who grew up in South Buffalo and was a Sabres fan before the Hawks made him the top pick in the NHL draft in June, was honored with a pregame ceremony and received a standing ovation from the crowd of 18,690.
The rookie gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead 2 minutes 35 seconds into the game when he took a pass from behind the net by Patrick Sharp and fired a shot past Miller from between the circles. Fellow rookie Jonathan Toews also picked up an assist.
"It was probably one of the best nights of my life," Kane said. "A night I'll definitely remember.
"Thirteen games, that's probably double what I've done my whole life in going without a goal, so it was nice to finally put one in." Buffalo tied it 1-1 on a Thomas Vanek power-play goal at the 2:52 mark of the second period. With the Hawks' Dustin Byfuglien in the penalty box for hooking, Vanek put his 10th of the season past Hawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin off a pass from Derek Roy. Maxim Afinogenov added an assist.
Drew Stafford's seventh goal of the season gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead at 10:18 of the second. Stafford sent a shot toward the net that appeared to hit Hawks winger Adam Burish and got by Khabibulin. Vanek and Roy each picked up assists.
Jason Pominville finished the scoring with an empty-netter with 47 seconds remaining.
Miller, who was starting for the second straight night after making 20 saves in a 5-3 victory over the Washington Capitals on Friday night, made Saturday's lead hold up with several stellar saves, including stopping Hawks defenseman Brent Sopel on a breakaway and stoning Kane on a one-timer from in close in the second period.
In the third period, Miller, who finished with 26 saves, again stopped Kane on a spinning back-hander with 6:32 remaining. He came up big again 44 seconds later when he made a save on Tuomo Ruutu from the slot.
"[Miller] was good," Kane said. "He made a lot of big saves, especially that one on Ruutu. That was a game-changer."
Kane is making a habit of dramatic scores. In the second game of the season, he gave the Blackhawks a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings when he beat boyhood idol Dominik Hasek for the lone shootout goal.
While most of the attention — hundreds of fans showed up to watch Kane during the Hawks' morning skate — was on Kane's return to Buffalo, Hawks coach Denis Savard was pleased that fans, especially ones from an Eastern Conference team, got a chance to see the entire makeup of his club.
"Let people see our team and see Patrick and some of the players we have here," Savard said. "It's a great tribute for Patrick, but at the same time we have lots of good players. [Martin] Havlat, Toews, Byfuglien, [Robert] Lang, Ruutu. We have quite a few of them."