Seventy-two hours after being in head coach Todd Richards’ dog house, forward Nick Foligno came back swinging. In the second period versus the Tampa Bay Lightning, Foligno put on a truly dazzling display of skill with the puck, deftly putting the stick between his legs and lifting the puck over the outstretched Ben Bishop to find the back of the net.
“It’s one of those things that’s just spur of the moment that you think of,” said Foligno, “Luckily, it went in. I’m really glad because I think the guys would have given me a lot of flak if I didn’t score that one.”
One game removed after getting hot under the collar from a Dennis Seidenberg hit against Boston on Saturday that saw him benched by the coach for the entire third period, he took to the ice and played a calm, cool game. He went 1-0-1, with a +/- of +1 over 23 shifts and 19:53 time on ice. Although the team has been, and still is, on a rollercoaster, he see’s confidence coming back into their game.
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“It was just a collective bond,” Foligno said. “We just decided to play the right way. Not to say that we haven’t done that in the past, but I just really liked our tenacity on the puck. We’re fore-checking hard, we were hard on pucks and we were battling. That’s how you win close games.
“We really didn’t give them (Lightning) a lot. They’re a team that plays on the transition, and they really weren’t able to. It says a lot about how we stuck with it. Our ‘D’ were great tonight and our goaltending. I was really proud of our forwards, too. We made a conscious effort at back-checking hard and making sure we were hard on the puck. It makes it hard on teams and we know what it feels like when it’s done to us.”
He knows they displayed more discipline in their game against Tampa, which has to happen to be competitive in the NHL. After parading to the penalty box over the last few games, against the Lightning they only had two, one of which was an “iffy” penalty call.
“You can’t win in this game,” he said, “if you’re giving up six or seven penalties a game. Collectively as a group, we knew we had to be better there. Our penalty kill was outstanding tonight. You’re going to give yourself the best chance to win if you stay out of the box.”
•The shutout was credited to the team, rather than a goaltender, with Curtis McElihinney coming on in relief of the injured Sergei Bobrovsky with 15:47 to play in the 3rd period. This was the 65th shutout in team history but only the first by a tandem effort from two goaltenders.
• A scary moment in the 3rd, with Bobrovsky having to be helped off the ice, not to return to the game. “(Wednesday) He’s going to get an MRI,” said Richards. “We’ll get more information (then). Obviously, it was a leg injury. When he comes out (of the game) like that, you’re a bit unsure. He’ll get looked at by our doctors. Definitely, within the next few days, we’ll have a better idea.”
Foligno acknowledged that they rallied around McElhinney coming on in relief of the injured Bobrovsky. “The reaction was that you never want to see ‘Bob’ go down, or anyone go down. It’s always tough. He made a great save just before that (injury) to keep us in the lead. But then, you have Curtis come in and he does what he does. He’s an outstanding goalie and we all have full confidence in him and know that he’s going to get the job done. We’re hoping Bob’s okay, but if not, we’re in good shape (with McElihinney).”
•Forward Blake Comeau, playing with Matt Calvert and the returning Brandon Dubinsky, set a single game franchise record for hits against the Lightning with 11. For his effort, he wore the “crown” in the dressing room post-game. With 92 hits in the season, he currently sits in the top 10 for hits in the NHL. “I felt like I had my legs under me (against Tampa),” he said. “I think that’s something that I got a little bit away from at the start of the year. I wasn’t being as physical as I needed to be, not only for my game, but for the team as well. Obviously, 11 hits in a game isn’t going to come every game.”
•The benefit of having Dubinsky back in the lineup was felt from the time of the first drop of the puck. He had not played since the road loss (0-7) at Edmonton. “It was great to come back and find a way to get the two points,” he said. “It was nice to come back and jump right into the action. I was huffing and puffing a little bit there. But, I feel like I got my legs under me, after a bit.”