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Foligno puts his stomp on Sabres; Power forward gets last word vs. Leafs

He didn't score a goal but rookie Marcus Foligno was the player everyone left First Niagara Center talking about Tuesday night.

It started nine seconds into the game, when Foligno flattened Toronto's Carl Gunnarsson behind the Leafs' net and separated the defenseman's shoulder.

There were more hits from Foligno, a one-sided fight against Matt Frattin and ultimately the way he got the last word against veteran Mike Komisarek as the Sabres scored the tying goal in a critical 6-5 overtime victory.

The Sabres have rarely had a prototype power forward in their history, an answer to the likes of Boston's Milan Lucic or past NHL agitators Cam Neely, Terry O'Reilly and Clark Gillies, who were as capable with their fists as they were with putting pucks in the net.

They have one now in the 20-year-old who puts his nose to the grindstone just like his father, former Sabres captain Mike Foligno.

"He was incredible [Tuesday]. He came out just stomping," coach Lindy Ruff said after the game. "I think he single-handedly helped this team win a game."

Foligno has six goals and seven assists in 13 games for the Sabres. Their playoff hopes rest in the two games left, tonight in Philadelphia and Saturday at Boston, and the Sabres enter Game 81 tied with Washington for eighth place in the East. Their hopes would have died had they not pulled out Tuesday's game.

On a faceoff in the Toronto end with 2:07 left, officials had to tell Foligno and Komisarek to knock it off. Komisarek slashed Foligno and both players were talking.

"He's the one that sparked it," Foligno said of Komisarek. "He slashed me for some reason. I don't know if it was just one of those things, last two minutes in the game and he's trying to put fear into someone young, but I wasn't really going to have any of that. I just gave it right back."

When the puck was drawn behind the goal line, Komisarek anticipated Foligno would hit him rather than go directly for the puck. Foligno stutter-stepped him to fake the hit, then barreled ahead to take the puck and get it to the front of the net. That started the crazy scrum that led to Jordan Leopold's goal.

"They were really going back and forth," said center Tyler Ennis. "I think Marcus said, 'We're gonna score,' well sort of, and 10 seconds later we did. That was pretty cool. He just bulled his way to the net. When you bully a guy like Komisarek, it says a lot about you."

Komisarek, of course, spent most of the scrum jamming Foligno's face into the ice with his glove. After Leopold poked the puck home, Foligno burst to his feet with his arms upraised. He howled at Komisarek and continued to woof at his vanquished opponent on the the way back to the Buffalo bench.

"Scoring against a guy that's been heckling you all game is probably the biggest relief and the biggest rub in the face you can have," Foligno said. "That's just what I did. I was just so jacked up that he was giving it to me that whole shift and we were able to score when he was on the ice. I just wanted to let him know we scored against him. That's all."

Since arriving March 10, the 6-foot-3, 227-pound Foligno has shown he can score goals in all kinds of ways and deliver punishment in a variety of ways as well.

"He's a huge guy, just a big human being," joked Ennis. "[Drew Stafford] and I really enjoy playing with him. He's not just a grinder. He's got hands, he's got the skill and makes really good looks to us with the puck."

The Sabres need one point tonight, or a Washington loss to Florida, to ensure they're still alive for Saturday's season finale. The Capitals, remember, own the tiebreaker edge and the Sabres' goal in these games thus has to be four points.

The Sabres will go through them without defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers. Ehrhoff had already been ruled out of the games due to a knee injury and Ruff acknowledged Wednesday that Myers' injured foot is "bad" but wouldn't answer if it was broken. Myers did not make the trip.

Still, Ruff admitted Myers won't play this week and would probably be a long shot for the first round of the playoffs.

"Tyler's out. It will be a period of time," Ruff said glumly. "What time frame that is, it will be more than this week."