BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Blackhawks served up a reminder as to why they're the Stanley Cup champions Monday night at HSBC Arena.
Overcoming a 2-goal deficit less than three minutes into the game and the loss of defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to an ejection in the first period, the Hawks rallied for a 4-3 win behind 2 goals from Marian Hossa and strong work from rookie goalie Corey Crawford.
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Crawford allowed only 1 goal the rest of the way, finishing with 32 saves to get the Hawks (1-1-1) their first win of the season.
"It was a tough start, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I'll take the hit for the way we began, not being ready or prepared.
"We persevered, but we were fortunate to come back from all that we had to overcome.
Hjalmarsson got a five-minute major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct at 14:18 of the first period for a hit Jason Pominville, who left the ice on a stretcher after hitting his head on the glass and suffering a concussion.
Hjalmarsson hit Pominville hard along the boards, although the Hawks disputed if it was from behind.
"I never intended to hurt him at all; it's a fast game out there, Hjalmarsson said. "I thought it was a shoulder to shoulder hit and then his head went into the glass. I didn't think I would be kicked out of the game, but it is what it is.
"It's never fun to see a guy lying on the ice like that. Hopefully he gets back as soon as possible.
The Sabres said Pominville was walking around in the dressing room after the game.
Replays showed the puck was at Pominville's skate.
"I was actually trying to poke the puck first of all, but it was a bit of an awkward situation, Hjalmarsson said. "It's just good to know he was up walking (later in the dressing room).
While Hjalmarsson faces a possible suspension, Quenneville wasn't sure it was even a penalty.
"To me you can argue that it was even a penalty, Quenneville said. "I know that you don't want to see anybody go down and get hurt like that, but (Hjalmarsson) wasn't even looking at the guy.
"He was playing the puck and just hit him. The way he went in (Pominville) he was compromised, but there was no intent at all on the head.
Hjalmarsson has no history of dirty play.
"He's not that type of player, but he made a mistake, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "He made a big mistake. He caught a player in a tough spot. It will be addressed.
The Hawks trailed 2-1 at the time and killed the five-minute power play.
"Killing five minutes against that team, to get through that could have been the turning point in the game, Quenneville said.
The Hawks also killed a 6-on-4 in the final two minutes after the Sabres pulled their goalie on a power play.
"Special teams made the difference for us the way we want them to, Jonathan Toews said.
The Hawks were 1-for-3 on the power play, while the Sabres went 0-for-5. Rookie defenseman Nick Leddy's first NHL goal at 4:08 of the second period made it 2-2 and set the stage for Hossa taking over.
Hossa put the Hawks ahead with 1:13 left in the second period on a breakaway when he faked a slap shot then snapped a shot past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. Hossa struck again at 3:36 of the third period to make it 4-2.
"We didn't have a good start again, Hossa said. "We really needed this win. That five-minute kill gave us more confidence and we started playing like last year.
Tim Sassone's game tracker
Blackhawks 4, Sabres 3
Three stars: 1. Marian Hossa, Hawks: Two goals on 6 shots and plus-3 for the star winger.
2. Corey Crawford, Hawks: Rookie goalie made 32 saves and rallied from being down 2-0 in the first three minutes.
3. Nick Boynton, Hawks: Defenseman played 23 minutes and was plus-2 with an assist.
Fab five: With Niklas Hjalmarsson ejected in the first period, the Hawks got big minutes and big efforts from Nick Boynton, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy and John Scott.
By the numbers: The Hawks are 1-1-1 after three games just as they were in their Stanley Cup season.