Hags, Step step it up

After slow starts, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin are starting to find their grooves.

Rangers coach John Tortorella praised the pair after the Rangers' 5-1 win over the Lightning on Sunday. The two played on the first line, alongside Rick Nash, and Hagelin scored two goals and tallied an assist. They combined for a +5 rating and their line totaled three goals as Nash also had one.

Hagelin has five points in the past four games, all of which have come against the Lightning. Through the first seven games, he was held without a point. He finally broke the seal on Feb. 2 with a goal and assist against Tampa Bay, and added three more points on Sunday.

"It's being in the right spot a lot. The puck is going in now compared to before," Hagelin said Sunday. "It's not a huge difference. Obviously I didn't get off to a great start, the first three or four games, but since then I've had chances and I've been able to put them in and today they went in."

Tortorella said Hagelin has been neck-and-neck with the team's top scorers in terms of chances. "I don't think he's a natural goal scorer but he scored 14 last year and this is something he needs to take the next step in," Tortorella said. "We've talked about this, as he's acclimating himself to being a National Hockey Leaguer, he needs to prepare himself to score goals also. So hopefully this makes our team that much better if we can get him to chip in goals."

Stepan has just one goal, but Tortorella said he's also been near the top in terms of scoring chances. His defense on the top line helped keep Tampa Bay's powerful top line of Martin St. Louis, Nate Thompson and Steven Stamkos scoreless on Sunday night.

"Step's game has really grown on both sides of the puck," Tortorella said. "I think he's much more confident."