Triumphant Return for Gagne

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Later in the middle period, Steve Downie was crashing the net and went tumbling into Gustavsson.  It looked at first glance as though the officials were going to call Downie for goaltender interference, but correctly did not make the call, as Schenn had cross-checked Downie into his own netminder.

The second period ended with Toronto ahead 2-1, and the shots margin was narrowed to 29-20 in favor of the Bolts.

Early in the third, Ellis came up big with a save on Tyler Bozak while Tampa was on the power play.

Just when it seemed as though the Lightning were about to tie the game, a huge swing occurred.  Gustavsson flashed the left pad on Steven Stamkos at the left side of the net off of a Hedman rebound to preserve the Toronto lead.

As play went the other direction, Joey Crabb dumped the puck into the Tampa Bay zone.  As Ellis went behind the net to cut it off, the puck kicked off of a bad seam in the glass and directly out in front of the yawning Lightning net.  Ellis’ effort to  dive back in front to make the save went for naught, as Kulemin pounced on the loose disc and popped it into the empty net.

It was now a two-goal Maple Leafs’ lead with just 12:37 left in regulation.

Just over a minute later, Tampa would cut the deficit in half.  Downie found St. Louis all alone in front of the Toronto net, and after waiting out the netminder as Gustavsson sprawled to the ice, St. Louis roofed his shot into the net.  It was now a 3-2 Leafs’ lead.

Just moments later, Teddy Purcell was absolutely robbed by Gustavsson on a Gagne rebound.  It appeared their best chance to tie the game would fall just short.

Later in the third, Versteeg carried the puck into the Lightning zone and the defensive coverage parted like the Red Sea.  Versteeg ripped a wrist shot from the slot that beat Ellis to the glove side, but sailed just wide.

Ellis made an excellent save on Crabb off of a rebound with about five minutes left in regulation to keep the Bolts within striking distance.

Guy Boucher pulled Ellis in favor of an extra attacker with about 1:30 left, and after a timeout, really weren’t generating any scoring chances.  St. Louis had to stop a shot by Mike Brown at the empty net to avoid a clinching Leafs’ goal.

But Brown had a couple of shining moments of his own in the Toronto end of the ice in the waning seconds.  He dove in front of and blocked shots by both Malone (with his hand, which he may have injured) and Stamkos.

With just over 10 seconds left and an offensive draw, Dominic Moore won the puck back along the boards.  Stamkos picked it up and shoved it to St. Louis, who rifled a one-time howitzer through a Gagne screen and past Gustavsson to tie the game at 3-3 with just 8.7 seconds remaining.

The game was heading to overtime.

Just past the one minute mark of the OT, Gagne broke out on a two-on-one with defenseman Brett Clark.  As Gagne streaked down the right wing side he used a pass to Clark as a decoy, then snapped a shot that beat Gustavsson to give Tampa Bay the victory.

It was a gutsy performance in which the team could have folded after the second bad goal given up, but everyone on the team contributed to the comeback.

And it will be a big lift if Gagne can remain healthy and contribute the way he did tonight.  It was the Simon Gagne that Yzerman thought that he had acquired in the off-season, the one that had tied for the Lightning scoring lead in the pre-season.

It’s not known what happened to Gagne in the first six games that he didn’t contribute offensively, but he was at least getting glorious scoring chances.

If tonight is any indication of how well Gagne is feeling, his production could be a much-welcomed regular occurrence.

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Tags: Guy Boucher Martin St Louis National Hockey League NHL Simon Gagne Steve Yzerman Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning Toronto Maple Leafs