BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Jonathan Toews is making erasing late-game Chicago Blackhawks’ deficits a regular habit.
The Blackhawks captain scored goals 47 seconds apart — including the winner with 56 seconds left — to spark a 4-3 win over the last-place Buffalo Sabres on Friday night. Toews’ latest clutch performance came five days after he capped a two-goal, third-period comeback by scoring with 31 seconds left in a 4-3 win over Winnipeg, his hometown.
“He’s had a big, big week,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s a special player, and the bigger the stage, the bigger the response.”
With the Blackhawks in jeopardy of squandering a 2-1 lead to the NHL’s worst team and a chance to inch closer to Central Division-leading Nashville, Toews came up big by scoring his 27th and 28th goals of the season.
He tied the game with 1:43 left with a gritty effort in front. After Buffalo goalie Anders Lindback stopped Duncan Keith’s blast from the blue line, the rebound trickled in front, where Toews shoveled it in under the goalie’s glove hand while he was falling forward.
That got a large crowd of Blackhawks’ fans in Buffalo on their feet.
They cheered even louder when Toews scored again to cap a two-on-one break. Brandon Saad drove into the Sabres’ zone and cut into the middle before dropping a no-look pass to Toews, who snapped a shot just inside the right post.
“Obviously, we’re not too happy with the way we let up control of the game halfway through,” Toews said. “Maybe we got a little bit too comfortable.”
Chicago was playing on consecutive nights after a playoff-berth-clinching 3-1 home win over Vancouver.
The Blackhawks (48-24-6) have now won four straight and vaulted a point ahead of second-place St. Louis and a point behind Nashville entering the final week of the season.
Keith and Patrick Sharp also scored for Chicago, which set a franchise record for road wins by improving its record to 24-14-1.
Marcus Foligno scored twice and Johan Larsson also scored for Buffalo.
“A bounce here and there,” Foligno said. “It ends up a two-on-one and Jonathan Toews going down one on one with the goalie. He’s going to put it in 10 times out of 10.”
And it wasn’t lost on Foligno how many cheers went up when Chicago pulled ahead.
“When I scored, I didn’t hear too much,” he said, “But it is what it is right now. We know our fans are awesome. And obviously, there were a lot of Chicago fans probably because of No. 88 over there on that side.”
Foligno was referring to Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who is from Buffalo. Kane is sidelined with a broken clavicle, but made the trip to his hometown and watched from the press box.
There are also numerous Sabres fans who have spent much of the season openly rooting for Buffalo to finish last. 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 in 30th, two points behind Arizona.
The Sabres stunned the Blackhawks by scoring three straight.
The run was capped with 7:18 left when captain Brian Gionta fed Foligno cutting across the middle. Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook knocked the puck loose, and nearly tapped it into his own net, before goalie Scott Darling kicked out his right skate. The rebound came right back to Foligno, who swept it in.
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.
“I don’t think we expected to score two that quickly,” Toews said. “I think at that point, any team would’ve been thinking about going to overtime. Glad to have salvaged a point for a so-so effort in the third.”
NOTES: The Sabres were minus LW Matt Moulson (illness) and D Mike Weber (undisclosed soreness). F Tim Schaller was recalled from AHL Rochester. … 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!”… Buffalo extended its streak of scoring three or more goals to six straight — matching the team’s longest stretch since Jan. 14-25, 2014.
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