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Toews scores twice late, Blackhawks edge Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- Jonathan Toews again came through when the Chicago Blackhawks needed him most.

The Chicago captain scored twice in the final 1:43 to lead the Blackhawks to a 4-3 win against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Friday.

The Sabres had scored three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead with 7:18 remaining.

Toews' two goals came 47 seconds apart. With Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling pulled for the extra attacker, Toews put a rebound of Duncan Keith's point shot past Sabres goalie Anders Lindback with 1:43 left to tie the game 3-3.

"One play where we got it back to the point, and it landed on our stick and ended up in the back of the net," Toews said. "Big goal for us to tie it. I don't think we expected to score two that quickly. 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."

Toews scored the game-winning goal with 56 seconds left. After receiving a drop pass from Brandon Saad, his wrist shot went over Lindback's glove hand for his 28th goal, which leads the Blackhawks.

"It was a nice play, a nice drop pass by [Saad] and a great shot by [Toews]," Keith said. "I think everybody in this room has that hunger to come out and try and be a difference. Obviously, [Toews] leads the way, and Toews and [Patrick] Kane lead the way in that regard. … We got a couple bounces and a couple nice goals for a pretty good player."

Toews scored the game-winner with 31 seconds left in a 4-3 road victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.

"He's had a big, big week," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He scored some big goals this week, started in his hometown (Winnipeg) and ended up here tonight with two big ones. So yeah, a special player, and the bigger the stage, the bigger the response is, so he's one of those guys that he's driven in a different manner than a lot of players. Big-time week for him this week."

The Blackhawks (48-24-6) have won four straight games and are one point behind the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division. Chicago is 25-0-0 when leading after two periods.

"I think this year's probably the one year where 16 teams all believe they have as good a chance as anybody at winning the Cup," Quenneville said of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. "Whether you're starting on the road or at home, the advantages you could probably argue are very small or minimal, but that's what it is.

"But it's 82 games to get into the playoffs, a big accomplishment this year. The rewards are you have a great opportunity and a chance to win, but our division, the parity throughout the League has never been tighter or more competitive than it is right now."

The Sabres (22-48-8) lost for the first time in three games.

"They've got Toews out there. He's won almost every championship that there is to win," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "Going against a guy (Johan Larsson) who's played 30, 40 games in the National Hockey League with a big draw, he wins it, he battles his way, he beats him to the net, he scores a big goal. That's why those guys are big players."

Marcus Foligno scored two goals to lead the Buffalo rally from an early 2-0 deficit. On his second goal of the night, eighth of the season, Foligno poked a loose puck past Darling after it was deflected by Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook to give Buffalo a 3-2 lead at 12:42 of the third period.

"I think it's just confidence, everybody just being relaxed, knowing we got nothing to lose so you can make plays," Foligno said. "When there's guys making a high-risk play that are getting rewarded for it, you've got to do it."

Foligno scored to make it 2-1 with 6:50 left in the second period when he picked up a rebound of defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen's shot from the point and put a backhand shot past Darling.

"As much as you're disappointed with the loss, a big bright spot for us was the way Marcus Foligno played," Nolan said. "I thought he was really, really good. The way he battled, especially that first goal, he really battled through, and he was certainly a bright light for that entire game."

Larsson tied the game on the power play when he tipped in Ristolainen's shot from the blue line for his fifth goal.

"We played well for 58 minutes against one of the best teams in the League," Sabres forward Tyler Ennis said. "They showed what they can do when their back in against the wall."

Keith gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead with his 10th goal. His slap shot from the blue line got through traffic and beat Lindback 2:16 into the first period.

"Right off the bat, getting the puck on net, made some nice plays off the point as well and defended quick in the puck areas," Quenneville said of Keith. "He's one of those players that brings another dimension to our team, be it off the rush or in zone offensively, and defends very well, so it's a nice component to our team game."

Patrick Sharp made it 2-0 with his 15th goal. He received a pass from David Rundblad and entered the Sabres zone, where he took a wrist shot that glanced off Lindback into the net 8:36 into the first period.

"I thought we gave them a little bit too much respect in that first period," Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. "We sat back, were kind of scared to join the game."

Darling made 35 saves, and Lindback 32.

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