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Lightning’s Brandon Hagel comes into his own in first playoff run

May 9th, 2022 by Mari Faiello - Tampa Bay Times

TAMPA — The Lightning had a comfortable lead late in the second period of Game 4 Sunday. But Brandon Hagel wanted to ensure the team didn’t lose any momentum heading into the second intermission.

With Toronto on a late power play, it would have been easy to give something up. And Maple Leafs forward Alex Kerfoot was in the right spot as he fired a shot from the top of the slot toward Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

But the shot didn’t make it to the crease. Instead, it hit Hagel, who threw his body in front of the puck to prevent the scoring chance. It was one of those moments that helped seal the Lightning’s 7-3 victory, which split the series 2-all.

“That block shot was huge,” linemate Ross Colton said. “That kind of sticks out, but there’s so many things in his game that he does the right way and that’s when he gets rewarded for it.”

Hagel was rewarded with a two-assist night — which came on Colton’s pair of goals — adding to his goal from Game 2 to make for three points in four games during his first career postseason run.

On the second-period goal, Hagel grabbed the puck off the wall in front of the Lightning bench and shuffled it out to a wide-open Colton, who brought it to the top of the slot and shot it past Toronto goaltender Jack Campbell for the 4-0 lead.

In the third period, the Lightning were trying to clear the puck out of the zone as the clock dwindled down with an empty Toronto net. As Tampa Bay got possession, Hagel sent the puck flying down through the neutral zone from center ice. He tried to put it on Colton’s stick, but it rebounded off the back wall, still creating a decent set-up for Colton to score.

Skating alongside Nick Paul — also a trade acquisition toward the end of the regular season — and Colton on the third line, the trio has found some chemistry in these first few playoff games.

Combined, they have seven points (Colton with three goals and Paul with an assist).

“I think me, him and Pauly have been getting some chemistry going, which has been nice not having played together all that much before this,” Colton said. “…(Hagel) does so many of the little things right. Maybe some of the stuff that doesn’t come up on the scoresheet, but the amount of times he’s using his legs and beating out icings — that goes a long way because you don’t want to take a D-zone face-off.”

Veteran forward Pat Maroon has noticed Hagel’s contributions, too, particularly in how he uses his body and speed on the offensive side of the game.

“That shows how effective he is,” Maroon said. “He’s driving pucks wide, in on the forecheck, taking pucks to the net, making plays behind the net. … He’s been a heck of a player for us these last four games.”

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