-- The Stanley Cup Final was about the last place Simon Gagne
expected to be. Not because he lacked faith in the Philadelphia Flyers
; rather, he doubted his body's ability to rebound quickly enough from having two screws inserted in a broken toe.
"I thought I played my last game against Jersey when I blocked that shot," Gagne said of an injury suffered in Game 4 of the first round. "When we met with the doctors and saw the X-rays, it was done for the season -- over. There were two ways to do it. Have the surgery and maybe that would take six or eight weeks, or not have the surgery and it would take 10 weeks."
However, no one factored in Gagne's heart and desire at the time.
"I did the surgery and hoped I could heal quickly," Gagne said. "In two weeks I was back on skates. I went from crutches to a boot to skates, then practice and a game the next day. There was a lot of swelling at first and it was uncomfortable, but I was expecting that. But I was desperate to go out there and play and help the team win.
"I did nothing for two weeks. I wasn't able to put any weight on my foot. I thought it would take a while to get back on the ice. It felt good to be part of the team again and be at my best."
Just 14 days removed from having the two screws surgically implanted in his right foot, Gagne scored his first goal of the playoffs on his only shift of overtime to give Philadelphia a dramatic 5-4 victory over the Bruins that cut the series deficit to 3-1.
"I thought about if I would help or not," Gagne said of pondering a return to the lineup. "But some of my teammates came to me and said my presence on the bench would help. To hear your teammates say something like that, it helped me make the decision. I was only 50-50 before then."
As for the game itself, Gagne said he felt pretty good, all things considered.
"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 (coach Peter 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 told NHL.com's Mike Morreale. "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."
"It's the time of year where you're playing through injuries, you're playing through a lot of things," captain Mike 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. (Game 4) was no different. We leaned on him, and he answered."
Gagne scored twice in Game 5 as the Flyers closed the gap more and assisted on another goal in Game 6 as they pulled even. But Gagne saved his best for last -- Game 7, when he scored the winning goal with 7:08 left in regulation as the Flyers roared back from a three-goal deficit to oust the Bruins and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Flyers have lost only one game since Gagne returned to the lineup.
"After Game 1, and even after (being down) 3-0, we could have quit," Gagne said. "We just said, 'Let's put one in and you never know what happens.' We got a couple of goals to tie the game in the second, and after that the game was right there for both teams. Fortunately, they took a penalty and we were able to score on the power play.
"We were down 0-3, so you go one game at a time, actually you go one day at a time," Gagne said. "We were good enough to get back into it and play again. I sensed that we could come back. Maybe we were down 0-3, but we still hung in there. The games were close and we were playing good. Maybe we were just a bounce away.
"We got an overtime goal in Game 4 and it started from there," he said. "That helped us gain some confidence. That's a big part of an individual's success and our team's success.
"Everything started to fall into place after that game."