TAMPA — For several weeks, left wing Simon Gagne watched as his teammates stepped up to pick up the slack while he was sidelined with a neck strain.
Now Gagne is returning the favor.
With the Lightning down two of its top six forwards to injuries, Gagne moved onto the top line and had a goal and two assists in a 6-5 victory over the Avalanche on Saturday night in front of 18,212 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Gagne may not be able to replicate the gritty, physical style of injured wing Steve Downie, who is out three to four weeks with a high ankle sprain. But he is showing the offensive skill and savvy that made him a two-time 40-goal scorer with the Flyers and the team's top offseason acquisition, notching five points in his past three games since missing 18 because of his injury.
"I think we're starting to see the real Gagne now," coach Guy Boucher said.
The Lightning (15-9-3) controlled play for most of the game, outshooting Colorado 39-24, scoring first and leading for all but six minutes. But Boucher was disappointed in how his team played in the final three, when the Avalanche scored two goals.
"Guys were trying to take off for breakaways, and guys curling in our zone, penalties," Boucher said. "Those are not championship habits."
Goalie Dan Ellis, who gave up five goals on 24 shots, was not pleased with the first goal he gave up, a bad-angled wrist shot by Philippe Dupuis in the first period. "Extremely soft," Ellis said. But Boucher said there was not much Ellis could do about the rest, and he made a big save in the final minute.
The Lightning had a very balanced offensive game, with six players scoring and recently called-up Johan Harju picking up his first NHL point (an assist). On a night when star center Steven Stamkos extended his goal-less streak to five games, several points came from the third and fourth lines.
"Everyone is contributing here," Boucher said. "That's been the story of our team."
But the story Saturday was Gagne, who said he benefited from more ice time (17 minutes, 53 seconds), and is getting his legs underneath him. "I have energy every time I jump on the ice, and that's the way you want to feel," he said.
Gagne scored a power-play goal on a five-on-three opportunity in the second to make the score 4-2, but his biggest highlight may have been an assist on Marty St. Louis' goal 10 minutes earlier for a 2-1 lead. Gagne, by the boards at mid ice, redirected a pass from between his legs to a streaking St. Louis.
"It was great," Boucher said. "But I'm not surprised."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Thompson 4 (Hall, Hedman), 7:14. 2, Colorado, Dupuis 3 (Hunwick), 15:53. Penalties—Quincey, Col (roughing), 4:44; O'Byrne, Col (roughing), 12:12; Hedman, TB (tripping), 17:22; Kubina, TB (cross-checking), 18:53.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 11 (Gagne, Ohlund), 1:52. 4, Tampa Bay, Ritola 2 (Harju, Tyrell), 2:44. 5, Colorado, Duchene 8 (Fleischmann, Liles), 7:18. 6, Tampa Bay, Gagne 2 (St. Louis, Purcell), 11:07 (pp). Penalties—Winnik, Col (holding), 9:34; Quincey, Col (slashing), 10:28; Dupuis, Col (tripping), 16:59.
Third Period—7, Colorado, Stastny 10 (Shattenkirk, Hejduk), 1:24. 8, Tampa Bay, Malone 7 (Gagne, St. Louis), 9:06 (pp). 9, Tampa Bay, Bergenheim 5 (Lundin, Malone), 15:55. 10, Colorado, Yip 6 (Winnik, Duchene), 17:49 (pp). 11, Colorado, Hejduk 10 (Fleischmann, Shattenkirk), 18:54. Penalties—Quincey, Col (roughing), 8:04; Liles, Col, game misconduct, 9:06; Hall, TB (interference), 9:21; Stamkos, TB (tripping), 16:24. Shots on Goal—Colorado 5-11-8—24. Tampa Bay 9-20-10—39. Power-play opportunities—Colorado 1 of 4; Tampa Bay 2 of 6. Goalies—Colorado, Budaj 9-6-2 (39 shots-33 saves). Tampa Bay, Ellis 7-4-3 (24-19). A—18,212 (19,758).