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The local kid surfs into town on a wave of admiration, enjoys homecoming king status and celebrates the moments with his family and friends. Then he skates onto the ice and wows the audience with a standout performance and scores his team's only goal.

It seemed so perfect. Alas, nothing is perfect, not even the memorable return of Patrick Kane.

Almost everything went right Saturday for Kane and his family. The South Buffalo native and No. 1 overall draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks came back to a warm Buffalo embrace. He was treated with reverence during the morning skate before facing the Sabres. The team held a pregame ceremony in HSBC Arena saluting the hockey families of Western New York, with Kane taking part in a ceremonial puck drop conducted by his father and grandfather.

The game starts, and just 2:35 later, Kane shows what all the fuss is about. He scores.

But that's where the glitch came. Kane's success came too quick. His father, Pat, and grandfather Don hadn't traveled from the ceremony to the suite yet. They missed the goal.

"He scored too early," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said, "so it wasn't that good after all."

Aside from that, it was. The game belonged to the Sabres, who earned a 3-1 victory, but the day belonged to the Kanes.

"It was probably one of the best nights of my life, a night I'll definitely remember," Patrick Kane said. "It was a fun day. It was nice to get that goal out of the way and to come out for the third star to a good ovation. The support in Buffalo has been there all along."

Kane lived up to the hype. He was easily Chicago's best player, taking a game-high five shots. He scored the goal, hit a post and forced Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller to make good saves.

"He is awesome," Chicago coach Denis Savard said. "He does not get rattled by anything. He probably played as well as he has played in a while."

The same can be said of Miller. Kane scored on Chicago's first shot, but Miller stopped the next 26 to give the Sabres their third straight win and fourth in five games.

Miller spoke last week about needing to be there for his teammates, lift them when something goes wrong. He was there against the Blackhawks.
The Sabres had a power play early in the second period, but they allowed Chicago's Brent Sopel to go in alone on Miller. He stopped the short-handed breakaway, and 33 seconds later the Sabres scored to tie the game at 1.

"It was great to see," Miller said. "Sometimes you've got to be on the same page, and for a lot of this year, for whatever reason, we haven't been on the same page, one group not making up for the other group. It's good to see we have a night when we're in sync."

Miller's other notable stop came late in the third period, with the Sabres holding a 2-1 lead. A Chicago pass from the corner found Tuomo Ruutu in front, but Miller moved across the crease in time to keep the Sabres in front.

"I had an idea I was in a little bit of trouble," Miller said. "The puck kind of deflected and went low to [a Chicago player]. He didn't look like he was going to shoot, so I just automatically started pushing toward the middle. Got there in time. I was glad I could read that developing because if I had committed fully to that [player down low], I would have been in trouble."

Miller and the Sabres took Sunday off, a much-needed respite for a team that played seven games in 11 nights. They get time to recover before they visit the New York Islanders on Wednesday. That's followed by a home-and-home series with Daniel Briere, Martin Biron and the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday and Saturday.

"We need a break," Ruff said. "We've got some tired players. Some guys need a day off. We need to rest and regroup and be ready again because we've got a tough stretch coming up."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com