Simon Gagne is finally performing at the same level that made him an attractive offseason acquisition over the summer.
His timing couldn’t be any better.
Gagne scored for the third time in his last two games and the Tampa Bay Lightning won its fifth straight with a 2-0 shutout of the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night behind another spectacular, 26-save effort from goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
After missing 16 games due to injury and scoring just one goal through the first 25 games of the season, the Bolts forward recorded his sixth in eight games for the Southeast Division-leading Lightning, who have opened an NHL record-tying 12-game home stand with two consecutive victories.
“He’s playing great,” head coach Guy Boucher said. “He’s always been an outstanding player and he makes a difference. It was sad to see the beginning of the year. Nobody knew what was going on with him and then we found he had been playing injured. When he came back, he had been gone so long that he had to get the pace back.”
Teddy Purcell also scored for the Lightning. He beat Toronto net minder James Reimer nearly halfway through the opening period to put Tampa Bay up 2-0 on the power play after finding a loose puck out in front. He has five points in the last two games.
Reimer finished with 29 saves on the night, including a pair of breakaways against Lightning All-Star Martin St. Louis in the first period.
“He had a couple of great chances,” Reimer said. “He’s a really great player and he’s at the top of the league in scoring for a reason, but I was able to get a piece of his shots most of the time.”
Toronto has lost six of its last seven games and was shutout for the second time in its last five.
It was evident from the start Tuesday’s outing would be another one of those nights.
Roloson cruised through the first 20 minutes, facing only four shots, but rose to the challenge in the second period by turning back 13, including a couple by Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel, whose goal drought reached seven games.
The win gave Roloson his 27th career shutout and his third in 10 games this month since joining the Lightning Jan. 1.
“For me it’s just another game,” Roloson said. “You just go out and play, no matter who I am playing, I just go out there and try to play to the best of my ability and give our guys and opportunity to win.”
He’s done that, too, earning wins in each of his last four starts and helping Tampa Bay to 10 victories in its last 12 games at home.
Toronto dropped its second game in as many nights after falling 6-4 in Carolina Monday. The Maple Leafs completed a stretch of five games in seven days with a 1-4-0 record, including losses in the final three contests.
Gagne opened the scoring at 5:11 of the first when he took a backdoor pass from Victor Hedman.
Tampa Bay’s current five-game win streak going into the All-Star break ties a season-high stretch dating back to Nov. 17-24.
“I think it’s great,” Boucher added. “We came out strong in the first period and that’s how we played the entire game.”
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