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Lightning nip Flyers 3-2 in Gagne's return

by John Kreiser
Simon Gagne got a salute from his former fans before helping his new team leave with its third consecutive victory.

The former Flyers star had an emotional return to Philadelphia on Thursday night, though he didn't have any points as the Tampa Bay Lightning improved to 3-0-0 with a 3-2 victory against the Flyers.

"The first 20 minutes were really hard," said Gagne, who was a Flyer for 10 seasons before being dealt last summer in a move to clear cap space. "I was tearing up."

The Lightning, now 3-0-0, got goals by Steven Stamkos, Dominic Moore and Pavel Kubina.

Newcomer Nikolay Zherdev and Danny Briere scored for Philadelphia (2-1-1), which lost in regulation for the first time this season.

The fans at the Wells Fargo center cheered when Gagne stepped on the ice for his first shift in the opening minute. He received a louder ovation at the first TV timeout with 13:40 left in the first period, when the Flyers showed a video montage of highlights during a timeout. Gagne waved to the crowd from the bench, then joined his new teammates for the resumption of play.

"I was up for the faceoff, anyway, so I thought it was a good time to do it," Gagne said. "I wanted to cry. I had to stop watching (the video) a couple of times. A lot of emotion. Everything started here. They showed my first goal and all the big goals. It's still hard to think about. They're always going to be in my heart. That's something I'll always remember."

Stamkos scored his fourth of the season when he beat goalie Brian Boucher to the stick side 15:11 into the game. Zherdev, one of the players signed with the money saved by trading Gagne's salary, tied it a little at 17:03 by finishing off a pass from James van Riemsdyk.

Moore put the Lightning ahead to stay at 14:49 of the second period when he backhanded a rebound through Boucher's pads. Kubina scored 1:27 into the third period when his point shot sailed past Dan Carcillo and Kimmo Timonen and went between Boucher's pads.

"I thought I picked it up," said Boucher, who stopped 21 shots. "It hit my pads pretty hard and I was shocked to see that it went in. I thought I had good positioning, I felt my butterfly was good enough, it just happened to squeak through."

Briere scored on a wrister at 9:59, but the Flyers couldn't get another puck past Dan Ellis, who made 24 saves in his first start of the season.

The win capped an emotional -- and successful -- two-night stretch for Gagne, who made his first appearance with the Bolts in his home province on Wednesday when the Lightning beat Montreal 4-3 in overtime.

The reception he got in his return to the city he called home for 10 seasons was something he'll never forget.

"You don't really realize how important you come back and get a reaction like that," he said. "If you play for the Flyers your whole career, you might not have a chance to have an ovation like that. You realize you were a big part of their life for 10 years, and that's really touching. They're always going to be in my heart. It's always going to be a special place for me."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
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