Having played in just six games all season long, Simon Gagne had was living a nightmare. In those six contests he had not scored a single point, and had a -8 rating hanging around his neck like an albatross.
But maybe worse yet were all of the whispers of being injury prone when Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman acquired him from the Philadelphia Flyers this past summer – and how the detractors of the acquisition were making noise when Gagne was injured in the sixth game of the year.
There was talk that Gagne was nearly ready to return, but with each recent game came word that he was a late scratch.
But tonight was different. With the club readying for a meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre, the Lightning’s official Twitter feed announced the good news:
Gagne will return to the line up tonight.
Dan Ellis got the start, but would give the Leafs a gift just 1:25 into the contest. Ellis gave the puck away, and Kris Versteeg was able to tip the puck by him off a scramble in front, and Tampa Bay was in an early hole.
Just over eight minutes in Mikhail Grabovski found himself alone in the slot, and he beat Ellis but not the goal post.
Late in the period, Toronto appeared to double their lead. With just 29.1 seconds left, Luke Schenn’s shot from the right point beat Ellis high to the blocker side. But the officials immediately waved the goal off, as Toronto forward Clarke MacArthur had made contact with Ellis. But it appeared that Bolts’ defenseman Victor Hedman had bumped MacArthur into Ellis.
Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs 17-7, Jonas Gustavsson was spectacular in keeping the Lightning off the board.
The Maple Leafs were doing a fantastic job of pressuring the Lightning puck carriers when they had the man advantage, and also getting bodies into the Tampa Bay shooting lanes.
With the fortunate call disallowing the Schenn goal keeping them within one, Tampa Bay took full advantage early in the second. With Nikolai Kulemin off for boarding Nate Thompson, Gagne made a nice tap pass behind the Toronto cage to Ryan Malone. Malone scored on a quick wrap around as he beat Gustavsson to the left post, and the game was tied at 1-1.
At the time of Malone’s goal, the shots on goal were a lopsided 24-9 in favor of the Bolts. They were definitely aided by penalty calls, as they had all four power plays up to this point.
Kulemin would atone for his gaffe, as his shot on a power play glanced off of defenseman Mike Lundin’s leg and past Ellis. The Leafs had grabbed the lead once again.