Gagne, Philly are flying again
Forward’s return sparks resurgence
Whatever wind was left in the sail of the sellout TD Garden crowd abruptly went off the grid early in the third period after Simon Gagne scored his second goal in last night’s Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series. After Dennis Wideman lost his stick trying to corral a pass at the blue line, Gagne beat him to the loose puck for a breakaway and flicked it past Tuukka Rask’s right shoulder for the short-side goal and 4-0 lead.
“I got lucky,’’ Gagne said. “I kind of just closed my eyes and shot the puck.’’
Two games, three goals for the winger — just two weeks after he was limping around with crutches and a cast on his foot.
So, about that broken toe . . .
“I was a little bit surprised the first game,’’ Gagne said. “Tonight was maybe a little bit harder, my legs were getting tired a little bit quicker, but I think it’s normal. The longer this series goes, the better I’m going to feel.’’
At this rate, one can only imagine what that would feel like. The momentum shifted in this series in Game 4 with the return of Gagne to the lineup and the loss of David Krejci with a wrist injury. Working on the top line last night alongside left wing Ville Leino and center Mike Richards, Gagne tied for a team-high four shots. Passes have been crisper between the three, and there is a heightened sense of urgency.
“He has definitely energized us,’’ Leino said.
On the power play, Gagne has provided a much-needed boost, too, logging 6 minutes 15 seconds of ice time last night on the man-up. Below the hash marks, he has provided some much-needed traffic. His first goal of the game, the Flyers’ lone power play goal with 2:07 left in the second period, was testament to both.
After Kimmo Timmonen skipped the puck to Leino down the left boards, Gagne camped in front of Rask. Leino got it to Richards behind the net, and he found Gagne in front for the easy tap-in.
“It was a hard-working play by Ville, he made a nice play to [Richards] and I was pretty open there in the slot,’’ Gagne said.
Almost a week ago, with the Bruins leading the series, 3-0, and dominating play, it didn’t seem possible the Flyers could force a Game 7. But last night they were running on all cylinders.
They outshot the Bruins last night. 31-23. The forwards, particularly energy guys like Darroll Powe (six hits) and Arron Asham (five), were unafraid to throw their bodies around.
And so the Flyers return home tomorrow night to the Wachovia Center feeling pretty good, even as the status of goalie Brian Boucher, who left with a knee injury in the second period, remains up in the air.
“They are a resilient group,’’ coach Peter Laviolette said. “They won’t stop playing, and you’ve got to give them credit for that. We have a lot of work to do. It’s just that the path that we’ve taken is not the ideal path, but it is our path. Guys have answered the bell every step of the way, and we’re still here.’’
When you can throw a guy like Gagne into the lineup on short notice and get the results he has, you have to like your chances.