Jonathan Toews scored two goals 47 seconds apart in the final two minutes to rally the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-3 win over the last-place Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
Toews came to the rescue after the Blackhawks squandered a 2-1 lead entering the third period. He tied the game by converting a rebound off Duncan Keith's shot with 1:43 left. Then Toews capped a 2-on-1 break by accepting Brandan Saad's no-look pass and snapping a shot inside the right post with 56 seconds left.
A day after clinching their seventh consecutive playoff berth with a 3-1 home win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks are now in a position to contend for the Central Division title. Chicago (48-24-6) won its fourth straight, vaulted a point ahead of second-place St. Louis and a point behind Nashville.
Marcus Foligno scored twice and Johan Larsson also scored for Buffalo.
A predominantly pro-Blackhawks crowd erupted with a huge cheer when Toews put the Blackhawks ahead.
And it was quite noticeable that several Sabres fans were happy, too. Many Buffalo fans have spent much of the season openly rooting for the Sabres to finish in last place. That would secure a guaranteed shot at selecting one of two highly touted draft prospects: Erie Otters center Connor McDavid or Boston University center Jack Eichel.
With the loss, the Sabres (23-47-8) remained two points behind Arizona.
It was a wild finish to a back-and-forth game that began with Chicago jumping to a 2-0 lead on goals by Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp before the nine-minute mark.
The Sabres responded with three straight goals spanning the second and third periods.
Foligno put Buffalo on the board in the second period by converting a rebound after rookie goalie Scott Darling stopped Rasmus Ristolainen's initial shot.
Johan Larsson tied the game 5:29 into the third by deflecting in Ristolainen's point shot.
And then Foligno put the Sabres ahead seven minutes later off a great centering feed from captain Brian Gionta.
The Sabres were in a position to win their fourth game of the season when trailing after two periods, and second in a row. Buffalo rallied from a 3-1 deficit for a 4-3 win over Toronto on Wednesday.
The Blackhawks, however, found their legs and improved to 25-0 when leading after two periods this season.
For the second consecutive game there was a distinct and large presence of fans wearing the visiting team jerseys in the stands. On Wednesday, there were a number of Maple Leafs jerseys. This time, there were large pockets of Blackhawks' white and red jerseys.
During a pregame ceremony during which four mothers of soldiers killed in action were being introduced, someone in the crowd yelled: "Let's go 'Hawks!"
NOTES: The Sabres were minus LW Matt Moulson (illness) and D Mike Weber (undisclosed soreness). D Rasmus Ristolainen returned after missing one game with an illness, and F Tim Schaller was recalled from AHL Rochester. ... Blackhawks F Patrick Kane, who began skating for the first time since breaking his clavicle in February, traveled with the team because it was a chance to visit his hometown. Coach Joel Quenneville said he still had no timetable for when Kane can be cleared for contact. ... Buffalo extended its streak of scoring three or more goals to six straight — matching the team's longest stretch since Jan. 14-25, 2014.