Hagel leads Bolts to fifth straight win

by Gary Shelton on December 18, 2022

in general

Hagel has four goals in two nights./TIM WIRT

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Time was, the net seemed to be closed to Brandon Hagel.

Hagel, the 24-year-old forward acquired from Chicago midway through last season, seemed to have left his offense up north. After scoring 21 goals for the Black Hawks, he managed just four for the Bolts.

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Vasilevskiy was sharp again./TIM WIRT

Then there were the first seven games of this season, which he didn't scratch.

Lately, however, he is on fire. He had four goals in his last two games, and 13 for the season. In all, he had six points Saturday night in the Lightning's 5-1 win over Montreal.

"I didn’t like  our start, and all of the sudden  Hagel breaks away and we’re up 1-0," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "That’s what he’s done for us. His engine’s always going. He never gives up on pucks, he’s always around the net. It's (Ondrej) Palat's spot and Hagel’s fit seamlessly in there for us."

Also scoring for the Lightning was Nick Paul, Anthony Cirelli (his first of the season) and Nikita Kucherov.

The Bolts have won five straight, and 13 of their last 16. Balance has helped -- Steven Stamkos and Braydon Point each have 16 goals, Paul has 13 and Hagel and Kucherov each have 12 -- as has an improved defense.

“We’re playing well in the right areas of the ice, there’s no question," Cooper said. "We’ve improved in that area. We were giving up three or more goals a game and we were having to score our way to win. Now we’re defending to win. Two or less we’re giving up. When you do that you have a much better chance to win."

Of course, it helps when goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is playing well. He's won five of his last six games. Against Montreal, he stopped 22 of 23 shots, including all 14 in the first period. In the last two periods, the Bolts held Montreal to nine shots.

“He’s the best goalie in the world," Paul said. "When he’s behind us, there is so much wind in our sails. He’s making incredible stops, stops that should be in the back of our net. He’s on his game and he’s unstoppable."

The Bolts will now travel to Toronto for a Tuesday night game. The puck drops at 7 p.m.

Cirelli scored his first goal./TIM WIRT

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