The Flyers are glad he did.
Gagne made a gutsy return to the lineup, scoring in overtime to help the Philadelphia Flyers hold off elimination by beating the Boston Bruins 5-4 on Friday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals
“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,” Flyers captain Mike Richards(notes) said. “Tonight was no different. We leaned on him, and he answered.”
Gagne, the longest-tenured Flyer, played for the first time since he broke his right toe in Game 4 of Philadelphia’s opening-round series against New Jersey.
“It’s a good ending,” Gagne said. “I can’t ask for more to be able to come back early a little bit in the series.”
Game 5 is Monday at Boston. The Bruins can still advance to their first conference finals since 1992 with a win.
“You couldn’t ask for more,” Gagne said.
The odds are still long, but the Flyers at least have a shot at becoming the third team in NHL history to rally from an 0-3 deficit to win a series.
Gagne was expected to at least miss this round after being injured while blocking a shot. He was walking around the Flyers’ practice facility this week, hoping he could start skating this weekend.
He managed an early comeback and heard a rousing ovation when he was introduced before the game. Gagne got the crowd roaring 3 1/2 hours later on his first goal of the postseason.
The Flyers wasted a 3-1 lead and were deflated when Recchi scored the tying goal.
The Flyers appeared to have forced Game 5 minutes earlier. Leino skated across the slot and tipped in Pronger’s shot with 5:40 left in regulation for a 4-3 lead.
As they have in all but one game, the Bruins scored first. Recchi found the net high off a rebound over a sprawled Boucher to give Boston yet another early boost.
It looked as though that goal would be enough to give the Bruins the lead heading into the second period, but Briere scored on a slapper from the circle that went through Tuukka Rask’s(notes) legs to tie it.
Gagne’s return paid earlier dividends when he won a faceoff early in the second. The puck found its way to Pronger, who scored his fourth goal of the playoffs on a blast from the point that made it 2-1.
That still wasn’t enough to finish the Bruins.
The strangest goal of the game came midway through the second period. Ryder shattered his stick on a shot that went wide of the net, bounced off the boards and somehow found its way past Boucher. Boucher dropped to his knees for the quick cover, but he either let it knock off his skate, or his pad was punched by Boston’s Vladimir Sobotka(notes) to allow the puck to scoot by.
Either way, the Bruins were suddenly back in the game.
The Bruins erased the deficit in the third when Lucic redirected the puck for a power-play goal that tied it at 3.
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