Tonight’s Kings vs. Flyers game was a special one for fans in attendance, as tonight was the celebration of the impressive career of Simon Gagne.
Gagne Retirement Night
Gagne, who announced his retirement in September, was originally drafted by the Flyers in the first round (22nd overall) of the 1998 draft. Gagne went on to record 535 points (264 goals, 271 assists) in 691 games with the Flyers; he recorded 601 points (291 goals, 310 assists) in 822 career NHL games. Gagne scored 37 goals and 22 assists for a total of 59 points in 109 career playoff games; many of these points were incredibly clutch goals, such as Gagne’s overtime goal in Game 6 of the Conference Finals in 2004.
As part of the retirement ceremony the Flyers showed a tribute video (below) chronicling some of the best moments from Gagne’s career, including his monumental and historic goal in game seven against the Bruins to cap off a 3-0 comeback in game seven and in the Conference Semifinal series.
After the Flyers’ magical run in 2010, Gagne was traded to Tampa Bay for salary cap reasons. He reached the Conference Finals with the Lightning, losing the deciding game 1-0 to the Bruins, who eventually won the Cup that year. Gagne then signed with the Los Angeles Kings and eventually hoisted the Stanley Cup as a member of the Kings in 2012. Gagne returned to Philadelphia in 2013 and then spent part of last season with the Bruins before taking the rest of the year off after his father suddenly became ill.
In addition to the Flyers’ main video showing highlights and statistics from Gagne’s career, many personal video tributes were shown throughout the game. The first message came from former general manager Paul Holmgren. Former teammates Mark Recchi, Justin Williams, Peter Forsberg and Mike Knuble also provided tribute videos congratulating Gagne on his retirement.
Gagne has been one of the most beloved Flyers for the past 15 years, and fans were able to show some appreciation tonight as Gagne came out for the ceremonial puck drop, accompanied by two of his children.
Kings vs. Flyers, 11/17/15, 7:00 pm EST
As for this evening’s hockey action, the Flyers and Kings played a close game that came down to the wire. The Flyers started off the scoring with a power-play goal from defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, his first career NHL goal. Gostisbehere was called up a few days ago and has replaced the injured Mark Streit on the Flyers’ top power-play unit. Gostisbehere is one of the Flyers’ prized defensive prospects, and one can certainly understand the organization’s excitement given the natural offensive abilities he has already displayed in only two NHL games this season.
The Kings later tied the game on a power-play tally at the 15:06 mark in the first period. Despite multiple power-play opportunities in the second, the Flyers were unable to take a lead; in fact, neither team found the back of the net in the second period. On a harmless-looking play in the third period, Jake Voracek set up Claude Giroux in the slot for a screened shot at 11:11 that somehow got past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. Most of the rest of the third period was relatively uneventful; however, for the final several minutes of the period the Flyers were basically killing a non-existent penalty, frantically trying to clear the puck but completely sitting back and letting Los Angeles dominate the pace. Sure enough, with under a minute left in the third, Milan Lucic tied the game at 2-2, sending the game into overtime.
The 3-on-3 overtime period tonight was electric, though. The Flyers had multiple breakaway opportunities, and Kings’ forward Marian Gaborik was left all alone in the slot; Steve Mason made a clutch save to keep the Flyers in the game, but there was plenty of action on both sides. Eventually the teams ran out of time and were forced to enter a shootout. Since it’s the Flyers, obviously there was really only one way the shootout could end: with a loss. The Flyers are statistically the absolute worst team in the NHL when it comes to shootouts, and it has been that way since the shootout was first implemented. Sam Gagner, Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek were unable to get one past Quick, and after Mason stopped Jeff Carter’s attempt he was beaten top-shelf by Anze Kopitar. The Kings won the game 3-2.
Despite the loss, tonight was an excellent night for hockey. Celebrating the illustrious career of Simon Gagne as well as watching a close and exciting hockey game, not to mention Flyers’ anthem singer Lauren Hart doing a duet with Kate Smith of God Bless America, made it quite an evening. In an ideal world the Flyers would not have allowed the Kings to tie the game, but you could sense it was coming based on the way the Flyers were falling into the shell. Many of the Flyers’ recent games have been almost painful to watch, so it was nice to finally see some decent hockey.
The Flyers, now 6-8-4, host the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.
On a personal note, I attended tonight’s game. As an avid supporter and admirer of Simon Gagne for the past 15 years, I was honored to be part of his retirement celebration. Though the ceremony was short and could not come close to encompassing all of the amazing memories I have about Gagne and his career, it was a thrill to see him and cheer for him once again. He is a true class act, and he happened to be a pretty great hockey player. I am proud to be a Gagne fan for life!
Featured image via flyers.nhl.com