LOS ANGELES -- After the Los Angeles Kings beat the New Jersey Devils in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter had a simple message for forward Simon Gagne.
Be ready for the next game.
Then he didn’t talk to him again until Monday morning.
Gagne hadn’t played since Dec. 26 while recovering from a concussion. About two months ago he felt 95 percent healthy. After suffering multiple concussions in his career, he knew 95 percent wasn’t good enough.
Finally, 95 percent became 100 percent and Gagne waited patiently for news that he was back in a Kings lineup that was on a historic playoff run without him. He said he didn’t sleep much Sunday night, unsure when he would play next. On Monday morning, it became official. He was in for Brad Richardson.
"This morning, [Sutter] said, 'Are you good to go?' I said, 'Yeah, sure,'" Gagne said. And with that conversation, months of waiting were over. He skated on a fourth line with Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan, and played a total of 6:39. He was tied for the team lead with Jeff Carter and Justin Williams with three shots on goal.
"I thought he played a good game," defenseman Alec Martinez said. "He’s been working really hard. It’s been tough for him."
By getting him in a playoff game, Gagne is now guaranteed a spot carved on the Stanley Cup if the Kings can close out the Devils with one more win. His 34 games played during the regular season wasn’t enough for that honor.
He said that wasn’t what was on his mind during recovery. First, he just wanted to get healthy. Then he wanted to earn a spot back in the lineup. Now that he’s back on the ice and his team is so incredibly close to winning it all, the Stanley Cup is something he can think about.
"At this moment, maybe it’s easy to say I’m glad I played that game," he said. "Playing or not, I know how hard it is to get there. I never won it. I imagine it’s even harder to win. I’ve been on the other side, I know the taste of losing and it’s hard. It’s hard to win."
First goal big for Martinez
Los Angeles defenseman Alec Martinez scored the crucial first goal of the game, whacking in a puck after goalie Martin Brodeur saves on a couple of Kings shots. In scoring that goal, he became the 17th Kings player to score during this impressive playoff run. It was his first career playoff goal.
"I don’t know if you guys saw the look on my face, I was pretty excited. I was just happy we were able to get on the scoreboard," he said. "The first period was a real battle. Fortunately, I was able to whack it in."
A starry night in L.A.
Wayne Gretzky set the tone for a star-studded night by dropping the puck before Game 3, but he wasn’t the only star in the building. Sidney Crosby took in the game in a suite with NHLPA executive director Don Fehr along with Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson. The Kings are also getting the attention of Hollywood, with Will Ferrell, Ice Cube, Colin Hanks, L.L. Cool J, James Gandolfini, Alyssa Milano and Matthew Perry, plus David Beckham, among those in attendance during a night that set a Staples Center record with 18,764 in attendance.