As Marcus Foligno spoke to the media on Friday night, a silver sabre glistened in his stall behind him. Foligno had just notched the first three-point game of his career with two goals and an assist, earning the sword as the Buffalo Sabres' player of the game in a gritty 6-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
He earned it by scoring in more ways than one. His first goal was the product of his net-front presence; his second served as an opportunity to show off his shot on an all-important penalty shot attempt in the second period. Foligno delivered it top shelf, just below the crossbar.
"We were kind of guessing on the bench what Marcus was going to do," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "In practice sometimes he likes to put on a nice deke move, [instead] he came in and showed the shot. It was a great shot coming in and going over his glove."
"I just thought getting it over his glove," Foligno said. "It's something I've done before in practice and maybe with the ice in the second you don't really want to stickhandle, I was just trying to get a shot off and it ended up being a good one."
Nobody was more disappointed after Buffalo's 5-1 loss in Philadelphia on Thursday than Foligno, who openly expressed his frustration with the outcome after the game. He answered with a fitting response on Friday, putting four shots on net and delivering a game-high five hits.
"I felt really engaged," he said. "I felt that we and myself needed an answer after last night's game and I just felt as a team we needed to bring it."
"[That's] what he can be," Bylsma said. "He's a hard guy to play against. He's a big guy, he's a tough guy to handle if he's skating and playing strong. [Both goals] are great examples of that."
Evander Kane also scored twice, including an empty-netter to seal the win in the final minute, while David Legwand and Josh Gorges tallied a goal apiece for the Sabres. Chad Johnson stopped 19 shots for his 13th win of the season.
Buffalo's third goal of the night forced Montreal to yank goaltender Ben Scrivens after he surrendered three goals on eight shots in 21:28. Mike Condon came on in relief and allowed two goals on 13 shots.
Montreal had two two-goal scorers of their own in Sven Andrighetto and Alex Galchenyuk, who led a fierce effort that never quite allowed Buffalo to slip away no matter how many times they furthered their lead. But, despite some close calls in the third period, what mattered was that Buffalo held strong.
"There's always enjoyment in winning the game and this group, we've gotten away the last two games from where we need to play," Bylsma said. "It wasn't the prettiest game, it certainly wasn’t a Picasso, but this group fought hard."
Montreal struck first on Friday when Andrighetto took a one-time shot off a pass to the slot by Max Pacioretty just 3:44 into the contest. After surrendering leads of three goals or more in the first periods of their last two losses, the Sabres knew that they needed to respond early.
Not only did the Sabres match the Canadiens with a goal of their own, they managed to come away with a 2-1 lead. Legwand put them on the board with 7:10 remaining, getting the step on Canadiens defenseman Mark Barberio and beating Scrivens with a breakaway shot to his glove side.
Ryan O'Reilly was precise with his stick in intercepting a pass along the boards to set up Kane's goal, which came with 18.8 seconds remaining on the clock. O'Reilly caught the pass from Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov and passed across to Foligno, who quickly fed Kane out in front.
"It was good to battle back," Kane said. "Getting a goal any time, especially with less than a minute in the period is big and it got us the lead. We were able to continue to capitalize early in the second there."
SIX GOALS LATER
The second period both began and ended with Buffalo leading by one goal. But in-between, six goals were scored – three by each team – beginning with Gorges' tally 1:28 into the period and ending with Galchenyuk's second, which came with exactly 22 seconds remaining on the clock.
Every time Buffalo scored, Montreal had an answer. Foligno deflected a pass from Varone into the net just 50 seconds after Gorges scored on his own rebound, giving the Sabres a 4-1 lead. But, shortly after, Montreal cancelled those out with two of their own, coming in a span of 2:01 from Galchenyuk and Andrighetto.
When Foligno scored his second of the night on the penalty shot with 2:19 remaining, it seemed as if the Sabres might emerge from the period with the upper-hand. But that too was cancelled out by Galchenyuk's second goal, a slap shot one-timer from the right circle that mirrored his first.
Buffalo went on to allow just seven shots in the third period, but it seemed like each one was a grade-A opportunity for Montreal.
"We had some moments where we were bending, but we didn't break," Gorges said. "We sat back a little too much in the third period to where we need to play, Johnny came up for us huge a couple times in the third period to settle things down.
"But we found a way to get the two points. We'll build and we'll learn from how to play in the third periods with a one-goal lead coming back tomorrow, but tonight we'll enjoy the two points."
The Sabres have a Valentine's Day date set with the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday afternoon at First Niagara Center, the second and final meeting between the two teams this season. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard on live on WGR 550.