Tampa Bay's Gagne enjoys homecoming and win over Flyers

Flyers goalie Brian Boucher watches as Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos celebrates teammate Paval Kubina's goal in the third period of last night's loss.
Flyers goalie Brian Boucher watches as Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos celebrates teammate Paval Kubina's goal in the third period of last night's loss.
Posted: October 15, 2010

ON A NIGHT when Simon Gagne returned to Philadelphia for the first time as a member of the Lightning, the Flyers weren't able to spoil his triumphant homecoming.

They can thank their power play for that.

Since scoring on opening night in Pittsburgh 8 days ago, the Flyers' power play is a dismal 0-for in its last 15 attempts. Last night, the Flyers squandered three opportunities, which wouldn't seem like a huge number.

But the Flyers burned 73 seconds worth of a two-man advantage just 5 minutes into the game and allowed Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos to capitalize later in the first period as the Lightning went on to hand them their first regulation loss, a 3-2 final score. In fact, the Flyers weren't able to notch a single shot with the five-on-three upperhand in the first period.

"I think that's where it cost us the game," Danny Briere said. "Things are't going right. On our power play, we aren't getting shots to the net. It's not just the defensemen. It's the forwards and defensemen. We're a half-a-second too slow and they're getting a stick on it. We have to do a better job at either getting a release a little quicker or taking a step to the side.

"We've got to start hitting the net."

Last year, the Flyers finished the regular season with the league's third-best power play. They converted on 21.5 percent of their chances - 68 goals in 317 opportunities.

In the first four games of the regular season, the Flyers have more shorthanded goals (two) than power-play goals (one).

While it's way too early to sound the power-play panic alarms, only three teams have a worse power-play percentage: Montreal (0-for-9), Ottawa (1-for-18) and Florida (0-for-8 heading into last night's matchup in Calgary). The Flyers were not much better in the preseason, going just 2-for-27 (7.4 percent).

Some teams, like the Rangers (2-for-7) and Vancouver (3-for-8), have converted more times with significantly less opportunities. Chicago and the upstart Islanders have both netted five power-play tallies on 16 chances, one less try than the Flyers.

Chris Pronger said the Flyers have a case of "trying to get too cute."

"I'm not concerned, no," captain Mike Richards said. "It's obviously a situation we can improve on in our game right now. I'm not sure what it is, or we'd correct it. It's still early, we're still moving people around, seeing what spots people are going to go in."

"When you lose a game and the power play could have made a difference, it's frustrating," coach Peter Laviolette said. "I'm certain that we're going to score power-play goals. We're just not scoring them right now."

Laviolette has tried nine different players for six spots on the top two penalty-killing units. That has made it tougher for those units to develop any sort of chemistry.

"It's tough just going on the ice with different people a lot," Richards said. "I think that's just experimenting and trying to get different things to work."

"It is tougher when you're with different guys because you're not too sure what they're going to do," Briere said. "It's a lot easier when you have the same guys, but, at the same time, Peter has no choice there. He's trying to find the units that are going to work the best."

Nik Zherdev responded to Stamkos' first-period tally with his first goal as a Flyer and the 100th of his NHL career. But the Lightning followed that with two more goals from Dominic Moore and Pavel Kubina.

Starting goalie Brian Boucher said he would have liked to have back both of those goals that trickled across the goal line. By doing so, he may have put his one-game on, one-game off rotation with Russian rookie Sergei Bobrovsky in jeopardy.

"The third goal was a big goal for them, and they were able to hold us off," Boucher said. "They were opportunistic and we're not happy about getting the loss. I think we felt like we were rolling pretty good and were looking to keep this undefeated thing going."

Even though Briere cut Tampa's lead in half in the third period, it looked like the Flyers were the team that had fought for an overtime road win on Wednesday night - not Tampa Bay. That was music to Gagne's ears.

"They know how big this game was for me," Gagne said of his teammates. "It's fun to win in Philly. I couldn't ask for more."

Slap shots

Jody Shelley played just 3:19 . . . For the second game in a row, Mike Richards was snubbed on a clear breakaway. Last night, he ran out of room in the first period against Dan Ellis . . . Danny Briere had five shots on goal . . . On Dollar Dog Night, Flyers fans consumed a record 20,105 hot dogs . . . Defenseman Sean O'Donnell fought Steve Downie in the second period for his first fight as a Flyer.

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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