With the Chicago Wolves facing defeat in Houston and the loss of sole possession of first place in the AHL's Midwest Division, Steve Reinprecht and Mark Mancari scored 26 seconds apart late in the third period to rally the Wolves for a 4-2 victory over the Houston Aeros on Friday night at Toyota Center.
The Wolves' comeback --- only the second time all season they emerged victorious when trailing after two periods --- gives them a chance to clinch a playoff berth Saturday night at Oklahoma City.
If the Wolves (39-26-3-3) win while Rochester loses at Hamilton and Peoria falls in regulation at Houston, then Chicago will ensure its 15th playoff berth in the franchise's 18-year history.
The Wolves moved into that position due to the late-game pressure put on Houston goaltender Matt Hackett by its prolific veterans. Reinprecht tied the game 2-2 with a rebound goal at 14:11 of the third. Mancari then delivered his team-high 29th goal at 14:37 --- assisted by Darren Haydar and Mark Matheson --- that wound up as his AHL-leading ninth game-winning goal this year.
Jordan Schroeder's power-play goal gave the Wolves a brief tie in the second period. Haydar produced an empty-net goal with 31 seconds left to clinch matters. Goaltender Matt Climie (20-10-0) picked up the win with 23 saves.