Carl Hagelin may be only 26, but after 59 career playoff games, it's no wonder that he's well on his way to mastering tips for not losing control in the Stanley Cup playoffs, a naturally volatile situation.
And Friday night he asserted complete control of the puck in the volatile overtime, scoring the winning goal as the Rangers eliminated the Penguins.
Latest Rangers stories
So even when he and his linemates kicked off the playoff series in less-than-inspiring fashion, he still was the optimist.
"Consistency and realizing that each game is important and that you have to bring it every night."
That was Hagelin Friday morning after the Rangers' skate and hours before Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden. That particular tip seems self-explanatory, but Hagelin himself indicated that he and linemates Kevin Hayes and Martin St. Louis could have done a better job of following the advice for the better part of three games.
That Rangers line often seemed out of step at both ends of the ice for Games 1 and 2, and though the Rangers survived that stretch with a split, their third-line performance later would prove to be pivotal.
"We had a lot of chances in Game 1 and didn't score, and obviously people were going to say, 'Oh, you might not have played the way you wanted to,' " he said. "In Game 2 and 3, we played OK, but not great."
Which leads to . . .
"You can't get too down on yourself. You might have a bad shift here and there, but you've got to think about the long run."
Case in point: A sloppy Penguins line change about nine minutes into Game 3 allowed Hagelin to score on a breakaway, and the Rangers went on to take a 2-1 series lead. That helped lead the way to more third-line accomplishments: Namely, Hayes' first playoff goal -- an OT winner in Game 4 -- on assists from Hagelin and St. Louis.
It was the first time either Hayes or St. Louis appeared on the scoresheet in these playoffs.
"We had some good shifts and obviously, when you get the OT winner, you're going to get some credit for that," Hagelin said. "There's room for improvement, but at the same time, we're playing pretty hard at both ends of the ice."
It helps to remember, he said, that the more playoff exposure you get, the more you grow as a player. The playoffs are supposed to be fun, and for Hagelin and his linemates, there's nothing more fun than being a key contributor to a series win.
After all . . .
"You've got to think that all it really takes is one really good shift to be a hero."
Friday night, he was.