In his return to the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night, former Flyer Simon Gagne came back as a member of the Lightning and the Bolts skated away with a 3-2 victory. All this after the Flyers spent two periods peppering Bolts goaltender Dan Ellis, with shots and nothing to show–the Bolts closed the door in the third.
It was a night of emotion marked by the return of a familiar face in an unfamiliar uniform. During a T.V. timeout in the first period, a montage was played featuring the Flyers’ pick of Gagne in the 1998 draft to go along with some of his best moments in the orange and black. After the Flyers’ P.A. announcer introduced him on the ice, Gagne raised his stick in appreciation and the entire crowd of the Wells Fargo Center erupted in response.
Before the game, Gagne commented, “I was laughing with the [Tampa and Montreal] media today about how it’s going to be tough to make sure I go to the left side and the locker room where we’re supposed to be and not the Flyers locker room.”
It was tough to find number 12 on the ice. His usual stellar play wasn’t there, posting a -1 and only registering a single shot on goal, with no points.
“The first twenty minutes were really hard,” Gagne said. “I was tearing up.”
Another pair of ex-Flyers, Steve Downie and Randy Jones, received no such treatment. Downie had a great night offering helpers on two of the Tampa Bay goals and dropped the gloves with Sean O’Donnell.
After two periods, the Flyers outshot Tampa, 22-13, but they still found themselves down 2-1. The forecheck and offense was intense. The passes were crisp and the defense they won puck battles and seemed poised to score, but Ellis stood his head stopping shots from everywhere, including a few from point blank range. Tampa stepped it up in the third, while the Flyers piled on the penalties, and the final shot totals were 26-24, in favor of the Flyers.
Peter Laviolette, head coach of the Flyers, seems content to alternate goaltenders, but Brian Boucher was guilty of offering up a soft goal to Dominic Moore in the second period on a mishandled rebound.
“I wasn’t happy with that rebound,” Boucher said. “My intention was to kick the rebound out further. Unfortunately, it kind of died on my pads. I think their guy got a jump on our guy to get to the puck and he was able to put it in.”
The Flyers lopsided special-teams continue to baffle. They’ve now gone 1-of-17 on a flat power-play that struggles to enter the zone and get off more than a single shot. While the penalty kill has killed off 21-of-23 and scored two goals in the process. It would behoove teams to allow the Flyers to go up a man rather than down a man.
Nikolay Zherdev got the Flyers on the board in the first period, scoring his first goal as a Flyer. After four games he’s finally gotten himself going and afterwards he played with greater confidence.
The Flyers are back in action this Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’re 1-0-0 against the Pens this season, and if Laviolette continues his goaltending tandem, expect Sergei Bobrovsky to get the nod in goal.