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Winning Play: Foligno creates breakaway lane

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Oct 15, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Nick Foligno (71) against the San Jose Sharks at Nationwide Arena. The Sharks won 3-2. Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Everybody remembers the finish on a successful breakaway, but getting open is sometimes half the battle.

Case in point: Nick Foligno’s Thursday night dagger, which gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 3-1 lead over the San Jose Sharks to close the middle frame.

To start, this was an off-target D-to-D pass from Erik Karlsson (65) to Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44). Vlasic had no chance and Columbus pounced on the unforced error.

Foligno (71) certainly noticed. “It was just a bad pass. You have to sometimes jump in the holes offensively.”

To Foligno’s credit, he helped create the opening. Notice how the left-hander turns, then moves to the left to put himself in an optimal position to receive the pass between Karlsson and Vlasic. That’s Foligno in the middle of the ice:

This maneuver kept his waiting blade away from a backchecking Karlsson.

Foligno explained, “I saw the lane. I just wanted to make sure I came over so [Karlsson] couldn’t really get around me. Just feeling where he was at the time. Also, Nuty needed a better lane to get it to me.”

Markus Nutivaara (65) appreciated his teammate’s subtle craftsmanship. “He got open so well. It was a pretty easy pass.”

From that point on, it was a race. Karlsson did a beautiful job of forcing Foligno to his backhand — at his best defensively, Karlsson uses his skating and stick to limit offensive options — but the Blue Jackets captain stuck with it, popping it past Aaron Dell.

”I’m not going to speak for him, but it looked like the goalie didn’t think I’d have a chance at it,” theorized Foligno. “So he kind of relaxed. I was able to flip it over his glove.”

For his part, Dell offered, “Still not really sure how that one went in. He jammed it into my pad and it somehow flipped up over me. Still kind of amazed by that one.”

Foligno joked about beating his ex-Ottawa Senators teammate, Karlsson, “It’s always nice to stick it to him. Good friend of mine.”

Nutivaara chuckled when asked if his No. 65 was picked in honor of Karlsson, noting it was selected for him in training camp. He revealed No. 11 was his number of choice, but quipped, of No. 65, “It’s a good number. I might keep it.”

However, for Karlsson and the Sharks, this 4-1 defeat was no laughing matter. It was a more subdued room, different than Tuesday. The post-game of that loss featured both the relief from taking a buzzer-beater point and the shrug from dropping the first game back home after a long road trip.

Tonight?

“We got what we deserved,” acknowledged Logan Couture.

Karlsson was scheduled to speak after the game, but the media was informed that he was getting treatment. He’s supposed to talk at Friday’s practice.