Marcus Foligno had gone 20 games without a goal and had only one all season. At home? Not a single one.
So he unleashed a lot of frustration with a two-goal game in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the New York Rangers. When he tied the game at 5:35 of the second period, Foligno thrust his arms into the air and did a full body leap into the end glass.
“It was huge,” Foligno said. “It was the first goal of the season in front of the fans and it was overdue. This is a game I needed to capture.”
Foligno had not scored since Jan. 27 in Washington, the fifth game of the season. He had energy right from the start of the game with several hits and helped bottle the Rangers in their own end shortly after New York had taken the league on Derek Stepan’s short-handed goal.
“It was one of those shifts I was getting on the body and everyone was around the puck,” Foligno said. “We beat them to pucks and they were a little bit tired.”
Foligno capped the shift with a neat between-the-legs flip for his goal, beating defenseman Ryan McDonagh to the spot and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to the post while taking Christian Ehrhoff’s errant shot off the back boards. He even joked it was patterned after the kind of move Thomas Vanek would make.
“It looked a little nicer than I thought it was,” Foligno said. “My stick just got caught between my legs and I put it in. ... It’s just something you try in practice and maybe you get a time in the game and I was able to do it in that moment. My skate was in the way and the only way to get it to the front of the net was through my legs and you had to be quick too.”
Foligno’s second goal, at 11:48 of the third period, came when he banged home an Andrej Sekera rebound through Lundqvist’s legs after a neat pass from rookie Brian Flynn, who eschewed a shot and held the puck to feed Sekera at the right point. It was Flynn’s first NHL assist.
“He’s a smart player who’s really quick,” Foligno said. “He can get to spots and he’s a good heads-up player. When I saw that, I was just trying to get to the net. I was yelling at him to pass or shoot it and he made a better play.”
“I was maybe patient because I didn’t see anything open,” said a smiling Flynn. “I held on to it for an extra second, the ‘D’ were able to get up to the line quickly and find that seam.”
Rangers coach John Tortorella was furious with his team’s play and took a couple of shots at the Sabres in a rapid-fire, 90-second meeting with reporters.
“I don’t think the Sabres are a hungry team,” Tortorella said. “I thought we stunk and I’m not going to give Buffalo any credit. Well, I will give their third line credit. They outplayed our top players. And that can’t happen.
“I couldn’t be more disgusted and disappointed with the way our top guys played, with the way we handled ourselves through it. That team was ripe to be beaten and we simply did not play the way we’re supposed to play. I don’t know what to tell you.”
Rangers center Brad Richards had a goal in each of the two games he played in since a two-game absence caused by the cross check he took from suspended Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta. He went minus-2 Tuesday. Prior to the game, he didn’t have much to say about the play that landed Kaleta a five-game suspension; Kaleta can return Sunday in Washington.
“It’s over and done with as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “The league took care of what they thought they could take care of.”
The Sabres returned Jordan Leopold to the lineup after he sat out nine games with an upper-body ailment. T.J. Brennan was scratched. Mikhail Grigorenko was also inserted for the injured Tyler Ennis. Ville Leino continues to feel he’s ready to play after missing the entire season with a hip problem. It sounds like Leino might debut here Saturday against Ottawa.