Maybe Peter Laviolette should talk to the Sixers next.
After all, like Doug Collins’ crew, his club had been playing listlessly and digging big holes for itself, and not showing much urgency to reverse the momentum as the losses have mounted.
But, after watching them storm out of the gates with two goals in the first four minutes in a convincing 4-1 victory Wednesday night over the Washington Capitals, it looks like at least one of the teams that plays in the Wells Fargo Center still has a pulse.
And if the return of Simon Gagne can inspire efforts like this — flying all night from L.A. to get here, then scoring a power-play goal — can Eric Lindros’ Legion of Doom or the LCB Line (Reggie Leach, Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber) be far behind?
“I thought guys from the first shift played hard and played smart,” said Laviolette, as the Flyers dominated from start to finish to improve to 10-11-1. “They were tight defensively. I thought that Simon had a real good game both defensively and offensively for us. Under those circumstances, flying through the night and getting here, I thought he did a good job.”
He had plenty of company, as the Flyers finished February 8-6-1 and climbed into the No. 8 spot in the East with 21 points, though they’ve played three more games than their nearest pursuers, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg (19 apiece). But after captain Claude Giroux got them going at the :23 mark, followed by a Wayne Simmonds’ rebound on the power play at 4:04, Gagne was the one who stole the show. It was a homecoming even he found hard to believe.
“I was flying late last night and tried to sleep a little bit,” said Gagne, wearing his familiar No. 12, “but I was so excited it was hard to fall asleep. At the end I wanted to come in here and get a big win. Scoring that tap-in goal (off a perfect feed from Brayden Schenn) it’s a good scenario for sure.”
Scoreless in 11 games this season Gagne, who turns 33 Friday, believes there’s still plenty of gas left in his tank.
“I’ve been in the league 13 years, but I still have some good hockey left in me,” said Gagne. “I may not have played a lot in L.A., but every time I was in the lineup, I felt good.”
His teammates picked up the cue and played their most dominant home game of the season.
“He definitely adds a lot more excitement to the dressing room and it showed right from the get-go,” said Hartnell, who assisted on the first two goals in his strongest game since returning to the lineup. “We’ve talked the past couple days how we wanted to have a great start and continue that through 60 minutes. It helps when we score first shift.”
Now if only they can pass that mindset to the team down the hall.