Toews proves difference-maker vs. Sabres

BUFFALO -- Another game, another goal for Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.

Toews netted the game winner in a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres in front of 19,070 at First Niagara Center on Sunday night, finishing a cross-ice pass from Brandon Saad just 1:34 into the third period to break a 1-1 tie. Toews found the back of the net for the fourth straight game and is feeling confident since winning a gold medal with Canada in the Olympics in late February.

"I think he's returned from the Olympics in great shape," Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. "The puck seems to be following him."

Toews' goal, the sixth in a four-game stretch, came on the rush after wingers Andrew Shaw and Saad broke into the Buffalo zone on their first shift of the third period. Saad took a cross-ice pass from Shaw and sent it back across the ice to a waiting Toews, who had an open net waiting for him.

"It was a good tic-tac-toe play for that line," said Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, who made 15 saves in the win and had one of the best views of the passing play from his crease. "[Toews has] been on fire of late. He's just continuing to play well."

Toews' 25th goal of the season gave the center 62 points in 65 games this year, inching closer to his career-best 76-point total in the 2010-11 season. Toews admitted afterward his line started slow on Sunday, but his mark reflected its strong finish.

"We maybe got into a few bad habits, but we played better in the third period," Toews said. "For myself, it's just trying to do the same thing with my line. We maybe didn't have the best start to the game, but near the end we were playing better and got a response."

Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane added the other goal in the first period for Chicago, a highlight-reel tally in which he shredded the Sabres' defense and ripped a shot past Buffalo goaltender Jhonas Enroth. In a game that featured few scoring chances for either team, Kane said Toews' consistency and ability to find the net was the difference on Sunday night.

"He's playing great," Kane said. "He's getting to the net and finding ways to score, different ways to score every game."

Kane added that keeping the top line on the score sheet is key to mounting an extended postseason run this spring.

"He's definitely a guy you want going in the playoffs," Kane said, "and the thing with him is whether he scores or not he's going to bring the same thing every night. He plays the same way and gives you the same effort, so it's kind of an added bonus that he's scoring right now."