NEW YORK – As the crowd rose and roared, the young man playing in his second ever National Hockey League game reveled in the adulation from the capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden.
Carl Hagelin, called up from the AHL Connecticut Whale on Thursday, scored his first NHL goal 5:06 into the third period to give New York (12-5-3) their second goal of a 2-0 win over the Flyers (13-7-3).
“I got goose bumps from that,” Hagelin said of the congratulatory standing ovation. “Such a great crowd here, they really love their team. The best fans in the world.”
Hagelin’s goal came when the former University of Michigan forward followed up a wrister from the point by Ryan McDonagh. When Hagelin’s original rebound attempt got stopped, the Swedish native batted the puck out of mid-air and past Philadelphia goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (30 saves).
“It was good to get a two goal lead,” said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 29 saves for his second shutout of the season and 37th clean sheet of his career. “All it takes is a mistake or a fluky goal and it’s a tie game. It was a big on — fun to see him play, and play this well.”
“He’s got the right attitude,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella. “I read one of his comments today, he just wants to play; you can’t over think. He puts himself in great spots in getting to pucks and doing the right things because of his legs.”
Hagelin was drafted in the sixth round of the 2007 draft as an unheralded forward out of Sodertalje, Sweden. After scoring 99 points in his final two seasons as a Michigan Wolverine, he entered this season’s training camp with hopes of joining the Rangers opening night roster.
“He looked really good in camp, but unfortunately for him we have a lot of good players so it was tough for him to get a spot,” said Lundqvist. “He’s making the best of it right now, and he’s flying out here. His speed is key for him to have success, and he’s using it.”
“It’s almost less pressure right now,” Hagelin said. “I expect myself to do more down there [in the AHL] than here. There’s always pressure, it comes from myself.”
Though he started the campaign with the AHL’s Whale, he got called up after starting his first professional season tied for the team lead in goals with seven tallies, and first on the Whale in plus/minus with a plus-12.
“He’s not an 18, 19-year-old. He’s a bit older – he’s still a rookie nonetheless. I just told him ‘come in and play your game.’ Use your speed, that’s your biggest asset, be fast out there,” said John Mitchell, who was called up with Hagelin on Thursday. “Pass out to point, shot, rebound, he gets two whacks at it, before you know it, it’s in the net. That’s the game, and that’s what his game needs to be. It’s working really well for him.”
Hagelin’s call-up on Thursday has caused a whirlwind Thanksgiving weekend for the 23-year-old winger. Not that he’s terribly bothered by the experience.
“It’s been busy. I haven’t really thought about it much,” Hagelin said. “I got the call-up two days ago, flew to Washington, played that game, then flew out here last night and early game, so I haven’t even thought much about it.
“You always get that juice when you come [up from Connecticut]. I think [Whale head coach] Kenny Gernander and that group down there with the minor league team deserves a lot of credit,” Tortorella said. “He’s not only fast, but he’s playing smart also. Both him and [Mitchell]. They’ve added to us right away these first two games.”
After out-shooting the Flyers 32-29 tonight, the Rangers remain the only team in the NHL unbeaten when out-shooting their opponents (6-0-0).
Lundqvist started back-to-back games for the 56th time in his career. The Rangers goaltender is now 35-14-7 in such situations with a 1.82 GAA and .935 save percentage in the second game of back-to-backs, and has recorded a shutout six times.
The Rangers are now 9-2-0 when Prust is assessed a fighting major in the game’s opening five minutes since he joined the team on February 2, 2010.