GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- John Moore was frustrated when he was traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 3. He didn't see it coming, and in a way felt cheated because his opportunity in Ohio never truly came to pass.
"You're not sitting there going, 'I hope I get traded,'" Moore told NHL.com Tuesday. "It's like a breakup, is the best way I can put it."
He's not frustrated anymore. He's not complaining about being shipped to the New York Rangers now.
Moore, a first-round pick by the Blue Jackets in the 2009 NHL Draft, has become one of the Rangers' most underrated, yet most important players in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He's playing more than 17 minutes a game and has become the quarterback on their power play, which showed improvement in Game 3 on Monday against the Washington Capitals by scoring a goal and adding another as a man-advantage was expiring.
Prior to the series against Washington, Moore, 22, never led a power play in the NHL. The last time he did it was in junior hockey four seasons ago, when he had 61 points, including six power-play goals, playing for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.
"There's Johnnie Moore. What's that, his third [playoff] game?" Rangers coach John Tortorella said following his team's 4-3 win in Game 3. "He's running our power play now. We're asking an awful lot, but I thought he handled himself really well. He made some mistakes, but I thought he handled himself really well."
Tortorella was quick to comment on Moore's skating ability when he arrived in New York, along with Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett, in the Marian Gaborik trade. The coach immediately fell in love with how well Moore moves on the ice at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds.
Now that more than a month has passed, Tortorella said Tuesday he has been impressed with several other areas of Moore's game. These are the areas that, coupled with his skating ability, have afforded the coach an opportunity to use Moore in many different and critical situations -- like on the power play.
"I think he's understanding, as far as stick on puck, just to use his range to the best of his ability because he takes up a lot of space," Tortorella said. "So it's stick on puck and understanding how hard you have to be in the corners. He still has a lot of improvement there, but I think he's picking those things up. And just positioning, period. It's such a tough position to play just to pick up quick thoughts, quick reads as far as where he should be on the ice."
Moore put a lot of that on display to help the Rangers score the go-ahead goal early in the third period Monday. He pinched in at the left point to keep the puck alive in the Capitals' zone and kicked it along to Taylor Pyatt. He moved it down low to Brassard, who found Arron Asham darting into the slot for a bang-bang goal.
Moore wasn't credited with an assist because Pyatt and Brassard touched the puck before Asham put it in, but his read allowed the goal to happen. It's a read he can make instinctively and aggressively because he has the speed to get back if he loses the puck there and the Capitals turn it into a transition play.
"That's a 50/50 play, and if that puck gets out maybe there is trouble the other way, but it's playing with your instincts and playing the game you've been playing your whole life," Moore said. "I'm certainly not trying to take chances and I'm not gambling out there, but I just made a read, I felt I could get there, and fortunately enough I was able to keep it in."
It's a play Tortorella wants to see more of from his defensemen.
"I think part of our game, and not just starting the playoffs, but in the last 10 or 15 games, we felt our [defense] was coming off the blue line too early and not allowing us to create more offense," Tortorella said. "Especially with a guy like him [Moore] and a guy like [Ryan] McDonagh, if they get caught for some reason they can recover. For all our [defensemen], we have tried to keep them on the blue line longer so we can create offense. We want it more aggressive than just backing off and giving up ice."
With Moore having the ability to make a play like that, the Rangers' blue line is far more dynamic than it was prior to April 3.
"His skill impressed me -- the way he skates, moves the puck, and he has a really good shot as well," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "He has everything you need to be a great defenseman, but I think his skating ability is really what stands out. You forget how young he is, but when you're in here you don't really think about age. You're here because you deserve to be here, and he's been doing very well since Day 1."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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