The Bruins exacted a slight measure of revenge for last spring’s playoffs by prevailing in Philadelphia last night. But, of course, this season’s Flyers team — while off to a great start — is lacking one of the biggest ingredients from last season’s shocking comeback.
Simon Gagne is now a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. And no Flyers player had a bigger impact on last year’s Philly-Boston Eastern Conference semifinal series than Gagne, who returned from injury for Game 4 and scored four goals in four games — including the overtime winner in that game and then the third-period winner in Game 7.
Tonight he’ll skate back on the TD Garden ice for the first time since he helped the Flyers become the third team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit when the Lightning take on the Bruins.
“It’s fun. Every time, it’s always going to be a special place now coming back here and what happened last year,” Gagne said after the Lightning’s morning skate. “[I’m] with a different team this time, but it’s a fun building to play in. Even since my first year, Boston’s always been a fun place to play and it makes it special what happened last year. It might stick in the memories a little bit even if I play with another team.”
Gagne cashed in with 12:52 elapsed in the third period of that Game 7, capping the Flyers’ comeback from 3-0 down in the game. In a career that has been slowed by injuries for a few seasons and in a series that he nearly missed because of a foot injury, that goal to send Philly to the conference finals is a major highlight for Gagne.
“It’s pretty up there. Maybe at least top two … maybe No. 1. … It’s winning a game, Game 7, and with the comeback and all that, I think it’s the biggest goal I scored in my career. Lately, that’s definitely the biggest one for sure,” he said.
The Flyers had to trade Gagne in the offseason because of their salary-cap crunch. With Tampa Bay’s turnaround, the speedy winger might get the chance to be back in the playoffs. Last spring’s series gives him the type of perspective that might help the inexperienced Lightning, or any club Gagne winds up playing for in the future, maintain a never-say-die approach.
“You’ve been in that situation before and you always try to look back at what team was able to come back from a 3-1 deficit or even 3-0 like we did. Most of the time you end up losing the series,” said Gagne. “But it’s always good to believe and try to find something. I’d have to say now, I went through it and I know it’s possible to do it. It happened to me. It’s something I could bring, you never know, with this team, in the playoffs. But until it happens to you, you never know you can do it.”
The Bruins know all too well it can be done. The sight of Gagne might stir up memories of that, again.