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Stanley Cup Final

Ron Hainsey of Penguins making most of first trip to Final

Pittsburgh defenseman, 36, has no regrets about waiting 14 seasons for chance to win Stanley Cup

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- At 36, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ron Hainsey has little interest in the firsts he has reached in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

First playoff game -- yes, at 36. First playoff point. First playoff goal. First Stanley Cup Final.

It's safe to say he's only interested in what lies ahead, potentially winning the Stanley Cup for the first time.

The Penguins lead the best-of-7 Cup Final 2-0 against the Nashville Predators. Game 3 is Saturday at Bridgestone Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

"I'm just very appreciative of this opportunity this year," Hainsey said. "It's been great and we're close to something pretty amazing."

The opportunity has been a long time coming.

The native of Bolton, Connecticut, has played 14 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, Columbus Blue Jackets, Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets and Carolina Hurricanes. 

Video: Michelle brings us the latest as PIT wins Game 2

That was a collection of 907 regular-season games before Hainsey participated in the postseason, and only because the Hurricanes traded him to the Penguins on February 23 for a second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and forward Danny Kristo.

No active NHL player had taken longer than Hainsey to reach the playoffs.

He refuses to let that define him. He says he has never been frustrated, or thrown a temper tantrum or kicked a garbage can in exasperation.

"No. No. Kick a garbage can? What good's kicking a garbage can going to do?" Hainsey said. "Never. No. Every game, there's something you could have done better. That, after a game, that's when I'm usually most annoyed. Then whenever you address it, that night or the next day, move on and go to the next one. That's the best I can tell you."

So "annoyed" is about as far as he'll go about the past and it has left no mark, Hainsey said.

"I said earlier this year when this was brought up, I would have loved to have played 100 playoff games and have three Stanley Cups by now, but it's just not how it's worked out for me," he said. "I don't think I've gone out there and sunk teams for 14 years previous to this year. It's just the teams, the way they've gone.

"You go out hoping to play every game to win it and at the end of the year, you add up the points and the top 16 get in and the other guys don't."

Video: PIT@CBJ, Gm4: Hainsey beats Bobrovsky through screen

About the present, Hainsey doesn't care for the discussion about the playoffs this season, this opportunity, being some kind of karma, that he has paid more than his share of dues.

"If you're into that sort of thing, but not me, not really," he said. "It's just do your part, see where it goes."

Penguins assistant Jacques Martin pointed to the acquisitions of Hainsey and veteran Mark Streit as critical for the Penguins in their quest for back-to-back Cup titles.

"When you look at the Trade Deadline, shoring up our defense because of the injuries, we needed the depth," Martin said. "Trevor Daley was out, Kris Letang was out and Kris never came back, so those acquisitions became a real key piece for our blue line."

Hainsey, with six points (one goal, five assists) in 21 playoff games, has played alongside Brian Dumoulin as a reliable top-four pair for the Penguins. Each was a plus-two in Game 1 of the Final. Same in Game 2.

Hainsey played 19:53 in Game 1, 19:50 in Game 2.

"It's a solid pair and what [Hainsey] brings is experience and his skating ability is a big thing," Martin said. "He's a mobile defenseman with a long reach and a big body. His skating has been a big plus and helped our blue line, our team.

"He can kill penalties, is a key guy, and he was a key guy in Carolina's defense corps. He's filled the role and really helped us, stepped in and played in our top four."

Video: Pittsburgh Prevails in Game 2

Hainsey may have had no playoff experience before this season, but he has been paying attention. He has watched games and series, he said, but spent little time contemplating what he had been missing.

"A good question; haven't really thought much about that," he said. "Once you get into the series, they really take a life of their own. It's been a long time. I was fortunate in my early years to go to a Calder Cup Final (with Hamilton of the American Hockey League) in my second year, which isn't the same thing but it's similar, you play into June. We lost that unfortunately in Game 7. A little, but you forget how a series kind of takes on a life of its own and it can go on for two weeks with ups and downs and little plays and little things that can change momentum."

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