By now, most Sabres fans probably don’t want to hear anything about moral victories, but that’s exactly what appeared in droves tonight during Buffalo’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in First Niagara Center this evening.
“It was a battle tonight, and obviously we were on the short end of it, but I think we have to leave with a pretty positive attitude after that,” said Cory Conacher following the game, who played in his first contest as a Buffalo Sabre after being acquired off waivers last week from the Ottawa Senators.
Conacher deserved to display some optimism following his strong debut. He assisted on Drew Stafford’s goal early in the first period—after nearly putting it into the Chicago net himself—and leveled Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjarlmarsson along the boards late in the third, drawing a loud reaction from the crowd.
“I’ve always loved the crowd here, I’ve been in the crowd many times when I was at Canisius,” Conacher said. “I know they’re die-hard fans. At the same time, there’s a lot of analyzing going on, as well. They know the game of hockey. It’s nice to have fans like that. It’s nice to hear their reaction.”
The same crowd, which was split right down the middle as far as Sabres and Blackhawks fans went, ushered an almost-unanimous cheer when Buffalo native Patrick Kane put Chicago on the scoreboard early. Kane evaded two Sabres while gliding into the Buffalo zone before rifling a shot over Jhonas Enroth’s left shoulder.
“It was a very good shot,” said Enroth. “I could have stopped it, but I have to give it to him. He shot right between [Chad Ruhwedel’s] legs there and right between my glove and head.”
The Blackhawks have to give it to Enroth, as well. Chicago could have easily run away with the game had Enroth not put on yet another stellar performance in net for the Sabres, fending off 29 of 31 shots. The only other goal he allowed came early in the third period when Jonathan Toews found himself alone at the side of the Buffalo net to tap in a crisp pass from Brandon Saad.
They also may have to give it to the referees. A goal by Tyler Ennis was waved off shortly after Chicago’s first tally for what the officials deemed “hooking” by Ennis on Chicago netminder Corey Crawford, even though Ennis’s stick never appeared to touch any part of Crawford’s body.
“I’ve never seen that before,” said Sabres interim head coach Ted Nolan following the game. “Tyler never really hooked him […] it’s one of those things that I guess you can’t touch too many goaltenders.”
That was about as agitated as Nolan got at his post-game press conference. He eventually went on to praise Enroth for his night, and lauded Marcus Foligno for his blossoming leadership skills.
He drew a few smirks when noting that Conacher “has a little vinegar in him”.
Conacher’s enthusiasm backs up that claim.
“We want to earn the respect from the other teams,” Conacher said. “You just want to get as many wins as you can […] everyone wants to win, everyone’s staying positive in the room.”
The Sabres are in action again this Tuesday night, when they host the Nashville Predators. Puck drops shortly after 7 PM, and the game will be broadcast on MSG.