When Simon Gagne
knew the time was right, he hopped on the ice and made it happen.
And it happened just 30 seconds into his first shift of overtime when a fatigued Gagne skated into the Bruins end, took a picturesque feed from defenseman Matt Carle
on the doorstep and knocked home his first goal of the playoffs with 5:20 remaining to give the Flyers renewed life in this best-of-seven series with a 5-4 triumph.
The series now shifts to TD Garden in Boston on Monday for Game 5 at 7 p.m. ET. The Bruins lead the series, 3-1.
"Yeah it's a good ending," Gagne told a throng of reporters following his goal that sent the 19,702 in attendance at Wachovia Center into a party-like state.
"I cannot ask for more to be able to come back early a little bit in the series … to be able to score that big goal. It's fun to score goals, but when you get those in overtime it's the best feeling in the world. It's good to be able to win this game."
The goal is even more remarkable when you consider the fact Gagne was back in the lineup just 14 days after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured right foot that required two screws to stabilize his big toe. He was unable to play the opening 10 minutes of the overtime because he admitted feeling a tad worn out. But he'd give coach Peter Laviolette
the thumbs up and hop on the ice late in the OT to take his eventual game-winning shift.
"I was a little bit tired after the third (period) and not playing and was hoping that we didn't have to go into overtime," he said. "But, we did and I took it easy for the first 10 minutes. I was cramping a little bit, but I was able to drink a little bit of water and they gave me something for the cramps.
"After that I felt pretty good. I told Lavi (Laviolette), 'Let's try to go out there and see what is going to happen.' We had a great chance on the first faceoff when I got out there and then it was a goal in overtime. It was definitely a good feeling."
Laviolette called Gagne's performance "gutsy."
"It was actually Simon's call," Laviolette said. "Everything had subsided and he wanted to go back out and try it a little bit just on that shift. It was maybe about a minute beforehand. There was an opportunity in the offensive zone, they let him get out there and try and feel it. I told him if things weren't good, to just get off and we would put someone else in. He ended up staying and it was fine. There was the neutral-zone faceoff, then it was just really his call."
Flyers captain Mike Richards
would win that neutral-zone draw against Patrice Bergeron
and eventually retrieve the puck down his right wing before feeding Carle in the high slot. Carle, who finished the game with four assists, then spotted Gagne alone in the crease.
Richards was proud of the effort put in by Gagne, who took a game-high seven shots in 16:25 of ice time on 23 shifts.
"That's what playoffs are all about," Richards said. "It's giving that extra little bit that you have and you're going to play with some discomfort, there's no doubt about that, at this time of the year. But he played through a lot and I'm happy for him."
Of course, Gagne doesn't expect every game to be this dramatic. But he was certainly grateful that he was able to extend Philadelphia's season at least one more game.
"We were pretty confident (going into overtime) because it's not like we got out played," Gagne said. "They got that goal late in the game to tie it (with 31.5 seconds left in the third), but we just felt that the game was right there for us. I thought we played very well in overtime. If you look at the chances, I think the chances were for us and that was huge."
There's no question having Gagne back fortified the lineup and, obviously, provided more pop on offense.
"It's the time of year where you're playing through injuries, you're playing through a lot of things," Richards said. "No one is really 100 percent, but for him to come back, it's obviously a big thing for us. He's one of our leaders, he's a guy who's been here for a long time, and we've counted on him a lot. (Friday) was no different. We leaned on him, and he answered."
Contact Mike Morrreale at email@example.com