BUFFALO — Nine seconds, an eternity for a goal-mouth scramble, elapsed from Sabres rookie Marcus Foligno’s initial run at the net to Jordan Leopold’s final poke past Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens on Tuesday inside a roaring First Niagara Center.
In these parts, if the Sabres win the final two regular-season contests, get some help and secure that unlikely playoff berth, the tying goal with 1:53 left in their wild 6-5 overtime triumph could become part of Buffalo hockey lore.
“I guess the big guy upstairs is looking after us,” Leopold joked after the ninth-place Sabres moved into a points tie (88) with the Washington Capitals, who hold the tiebreaker and the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Derek Roy’s power-play winner secured an unlikely victory in which the Sabres trailed 3-0 in the first period and 5-3 with barely five minutes left in regulation.
“That’s not how you draw them up, but that was a hell of a way to win,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “That game had everything.”
Roy’s overtime tally, his second score, almost felt like a formality. Leopold’s goal really beat the Leafs.
The 20-year-old Foligno, a star just 13 games into his career, created the goal and wreaked havoc from the get-go, knocking Carl Gunnarsson out of the contest with a wicked hit only 10 seconds in.
“I think he single-handedly helped this team win,” said Ruff, who called it Foligno’s best NHL performance.
After Alexander Sulzer’s second goal made it 5-4 with 5:03 left in regulation, Foligno showcased some of his best attributes in generating the epic scrum.
First, he beat Mike Komisarek to a loose puck, outmuscling and pushing the defenseman down. Then he grabbed the puck and jammed it at Scrivens.
The wild scramble was on.