Nick Foligno’s moment finally arrived, 19 games into his Bruins’ phase of life. With 3:24 gone in the third period Saturday, the 34-year-old winger, playing in his 976th regular season game, finally scored his first goal as a resident Bostonian.
“Felt great, obviously,” said Foligno, whose 204th career strike trimmed Buffalo’s lead to 3-2 and helped leverage a 4-3 OT win at the Garden. “It’s obviously something I want to do for this team, contribute on the scoresheet — especially with the opportunities I’ve been given. You want to make the most of it.”
Key to the goal, a simple backhand lift on Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s doorstep, was linemate Jake’s DeBrusk’s express haul down the right wing that resulted in the struggling winger testing Luukkonen with a mash at the right post .
The puck squibbed free off DeBrusk’s attempt and Foligno finally cashed in the loose change with his 35th shot of the season.
DeBrusk, who finished with three shots on net along with the assist, showed flashes of his old self, the winger who not long ago looked destined to be a key piece of the offense here for years to come. But his game slumped in year No. 3, even before the pandemic hit that March, and he now has but 10 goals in his last 67 games.
Just prior to Thanksgiving, it also became public that DeBrusk asked to be traded, a request later confirmed by GM Don Sweeney. Meanwhile, Sweeney has kept DeBrusk on the roster, coach Bruce Cassidy has kept him in the lineup, and Saturday the 25-year-old winger had his legs moving, looked engaged, and reminded a sellout crowd the value he can bring to a lineup.
“Yeah, I’ve offered him advice,” said Foligno, asked post-game if he’s provided DeBrusk any counsel. “I think the biggest advice for him is just you have to play well — you know, no demand that you make will ever happen if you are not playing at the caliber you need to play at. I think a lot of times, too, that goes hand in hand with how you feel about the situation you are in, too.”
DeBrusk, on left side, rode on a line with Charlie Coyle at center and Foligno on the right side. The trio grew more confident and showed more energy throughout the matinee.
“Listen, that’s the Jake DeBrusk I’ve seen before from afar,” said a thoughtful, encouraging Foligno. “And it’s what he needs to bring. I told him that after we scored. I said, ‘That whole goal is set up because of you.’ He moves his feet, flies down the wing. There’s not a lot of guys in the league — there are, but there isn’t — that have his kind of ability. He’s shown it. He has to understand how consistent that has to be — and how beneficial it is to our team, first and foremost, but to him. If you start doing that more, you’re going to get more confidence from the coaching staff, your teammates, and yourself in general.”
DeBrusk’s game, added Foligno, “could come to life if he just understands that [speed] is such a big component of his game.”
Foligno acknowledged DeBrusk asking to be dealt has been “a big hot topic,” but credited DeBrusk for telling the team that he still wants to help them win.
“And we believe him,” added Foligno. “And it’s great to see him put forth a great effort tonight.”
Meanwhile, Foligno hopes posting one in the goal column can be the start of good things to come. He has had longer droughts from the start of a season. In 2010-11, his fourth NHL season with the Senators, his first goal came in his 25th game.
Karson Kuhlman enters protocol
After the game, the Bruins announced that forward Karson Kuhlman was placed in COVID-19 protocol, with forward Oskar Steen recalled to the team’s taxi squad from Providence . . . Jeremy Swayman, whose last start was a loss to Vegas on Dec. 14, is expected to be in net for the Bruins Sunday afternoon in Detroit … The Bruins have gone three straight games without managing a lead, dating back to their win over the Flames on Dec. 11. In the three games vs. Vegas, the Isles and Sabres, they trailed for a cumulative 125:40 and led for 00:00. They now have a very slight advantage in lead time for their 27 games this season: 506:19 vs. 499:43 … Brad Marchand’s two helpers, including on Coyle’s winning strike, increased his team scoring lead to 11-18—29 … David Pastrnak, shifted to a line with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula, landed three shots but again was held without a point … Weeks ago, Foligno said his dad, Mike Foligno, sometimes would pull out his trademark domed helmet for family gatherings around the holidays. A bottle of wine, noted the younger Foligno, had a way of encouraging his old man’s spontaneity. But best Nick could tell, the old helmet was not pulled out of mothballs on New Year’s Eve. “He didn’t break it out for us,” said Nick, noting that Mike was in Minnesota to see his other son, Nick’s brother Markus, suit up for the Wild in Saturday’s Winter Classic. “I am sure we’ll try to get it out of him at some point. The biggest thing would be us going to the Stanley Cup. I think he’d pull it out for sure if one of us gets a big Stanley Cup win.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.