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Avs spoil Foligno’s big night as Sabres blow late lead again

BUFFALO – The famous “Foligno Leap” reappeared for its highly anticipated single showing just 99 seconds into the Sabres’ shocking 5-4 shootout loss Wednesday to the Colorado Avalanche, when rookie Marcus Foligno drove hard to the net and connected on Tyler Ennis’ pass.

The 20-year-old winger then jumped into the air, fulfilling a promise he had made to honor his father, Sabres legend Mike Foligno, who celebrated in the same fashion during his long career.

A special night appeared to be underway inside the First Niagara Center. With his father watching, Foligno scored again later and came within inches of getting a hat trick on Alexander Sulzer’s late go-ahead goal.

But another stunning collapse in the waning seconds ruined Foligno’s breakout game and cost the Sabres a precious point in the standings.

With the Sabres up 4-3, Jamie McGinn’s second goal tied the game with 1.9 seconds left in regulation following another wild scramble in front.

Remember, Montreal’s David Desharnais tied Monday’s tilt with 3.5 seconds left. The Sabres won 3-2 in overtime, however.

They wouldn’t harness that magic again, especially against the Avs, shootout studs.

“It’s two games in a row,” Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said. “This time we got bit.”

Peter Mueller scored in the second round, and then Ennis hit a rut and slipped in front of Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov on his tying attempt. The Avs are 8-1 in shootouts. Varlamov’s an incredible 7-0.

With the consolation point, the ninth-place Sabres (11 games left) now trail Washington by three for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot (78-75). The Capitals have a game in hand, however. The teams also meet once in Washington. Winnipeg’s a point behind the Sabres.

Wednesday’s defeat clearly stung the Sabres, who had won nine of 12 and five straight at home.

How do they shake this one off?

“Last game was easier,” Miller said. “We won.”

The Sabres’ gaffes leading up to the tying goal, most notably Mike Weber’s poor positioning, irked coach Lindy Ruff.

“You play with fire, you get burnt,” Ruff said.

Slick rookie Gabriel Landeskog created the goal by catching forwards flat-footed and zooming into the zone unfettered.

“Once we got in the zone, we should’ve had one D planted right in front of the net,” Ruff said. “One of our defensemen went behind the net.”

That was Weber.

To pour more salt in the wound, the Sabres spent much of Tuesday’s practice working on similar situations.

“One of (our) disciplines is one guy protects the goalie’s backside at all costs,” Ruff said. “That’s even at leaving somebody at the strong side of the net open. He just kept following his man, a tough play on his part.”

Miller said the puck hit Weber’s shin pad before bouncing to McGinn for the easy tap-in.

“That’s one bounce for the ages there,” said Miller, who made 38 saves.

It’s a bounce that overshadowed Foligno’s terrific performance on the left wing with Ennis and Drew Stafford.

Foligno had planned to jump following his first NHL goal, something his brother Nick did four years ago with Ottawa. But Marcus Foligno thought Stafford had possibly scored Saturday in Ottawa, so he held off the celebration for the next goal.

“It felt really good,” said Foligno, who has three goals and four points in three games. “I think the fans enjoyed it. It was great to get the celebration out of the way. I had it on my mind a while.”

Meanwhile, Ruff, Mike Foligno’s close friend, smiled on the bench.

“That was awesome,” Ruff said. “I’d like to enjoy it more right now. It brought back a lot of memories.”

Following Foligno’s second goal – a one-timer from above the left circle that tied it at 3 in the second period – he simply kicked his leg and pumped his arm.

The jump was only a one-time deal, you know.

Then, 1:55 into third period, Foligno, who later said he felt something, appeared to tip in Sulzer’s shot in.

Many in the capacity crowd of 18,690 fans threw their hats on the ice. But it had hit an opponent’s stick.

“I thought he won a lot of battles on the wall,” Ruff said about Foligno. “He deserved what he got. It almost looked like he got the third. But he can take a lot of credit for the third because he got himself in front of the goaltender.”

Stafford (short-handed) scored the other goal. Sulzer’s was his first with the Sabres.

Landeskog and David Jones also scored for the Avs.

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