Gagne able to continue winning ways
TAMPA — Simon Gagne didn’t know his nickname in Boston is “Bruin killer.’’
Yesterday, though, the Lightning forward solidified his status as one of the most hated players to Black and Gold fans when he scored the winning goal in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Gagne’s goal came at 6:54 of the third period when he took a pass from Ryan Malone and beat Tim Thomas through the five-hole from the slot, the go-ahead strike in the Lightning’s 5-3 victory.
It wasn’t the first resurgence Gagne has sparked against Boston. It was Gagne, as Bruins fans painfully remember, who came back from a broken toe in Game 4 of last year’s conference semifinals after missing the first three games to net the overtime winner for the Flyers. Gagne had two goals in Game 5 in a 4-0 win, and after the Flyers forced Game 7, it was Gagne who scored the winning goal on the power play.
Gagne said there was extra incentive to beat the Bruins yesterday because of bulletin-board material provided by Thomas after his 2-0 shutout in Game 3.
“One thing that came up in the paper and even on TV was Thomas came out and said it was an easy game for him, that he saw everything,’’ said Gagne. “So that was, I think, a little bit of a boost for us, to respond to that. We went in front of him, a lot of traffic, every shot we were there for a rebound and we were definitely a lot more desperate in front of him. That is something that maybe got us going for the game. We know it was possible to win. We had a lot of chances in the third and it happened that I was able to get a great chance and I was able to put it in.’’
That type of clutch play is something Lightning coach Guy Boucher has seen from Gagne for a long time. Injuries have been his biggest obstacle, but it’s clear the veteran is hitting his stride since returning after missing the final three games of the second-round sweep of the Capitals because of a head injury.
“It’s a different year and it is a different team, but there’s one thing that’s never changed and that’s Gagne is a money player,’’ said Boucher. “He’s a clutch player. He’s always been, and I guess when he’s not, he’s retired. I was lucky enough to see him play in juniors and you saw him at the Olympics, too, and whenever there’s a big moment, you know he’s there, and again today. He’s one of those guys, I don’t think he’s learned that here. He’s always been that and that’s why he’s here, that’s why we got him.’’
As for being called a Bruin killer?
“That’s the first time I’ve heard it,’’ said Gagne, who finished with a goal and two assists yesterday and was a plus-4. “Whatever happened last year, it’s different. This feels totally different than last year. [The Flyers’ comeback] is something I’m always going to remember, for sure, but now this year it’s a different thing. I would like to do it again, but it’s still not done. It’s 2-2. Even getting the game-winner today. We didn’t win the series. We’ll focus on the next game first and talk about that nickname later.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.