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Depth does it again for Rangers in Game 4 win

Get seven points from bottom six forwards, even series against Senators

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- The group of players conducting postgame interviews in the home team dressing room told you all you needed to know about the night the New York Rangers had at Madison Square Garden.

Fourth-line center Oscar Lindberg stood in front of his stall and stared back at a gaggle of media. Third-line left wing Michael Grabner was a few steps to his left, fourth-line left wing Tanner Glass was down the row, and defenseman Nick Holden was across the room, all in front of reporters, answering questions about their role in a 4-1 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.

Sure, goalie Henrik Lundqvist, defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, and right wing Mats Zuccarello were there too, but they're always there after a game.

 

[RELATED: Complete Senators vs. Rangers series coverageTanner Glass thrives on fourth line for Rangers in Game 4]

 

The depth players like Lindberg, Glass, Grabner and Holden aren't typically sought after by the media after the game unless they do something special. All four of them probably never were surrounded by reporters after a game at the same time at any point this season before Thursday.

But once again they proved they are as important as anyone on the team, outside of Lundqvist and defenseman Ryan McDonagh, because nobody is as important as them.

"When you look at the last winners, the good teams that make it far, they have guys that can score on their third and fourth lines, chip in and play also shutdown roles," Grabner said. "In playoffs, you need all four lines and six D going, and obviously a goalie standing on his head. That's what we've been doing so far."

The fact is the Rangers dominated the past two games, outscoring the Senators 8-2 and jumping out to a 4-0 lead in each game, because Ottawa can't match their depth, which has been New York's biggest weapon all season and has triggered a significant momentum shift in the series.

Video: OTT@NYR, Gm4: Lindberg sweeps in Grabner's dish

The Rangers got two goals from Lindberg, one from Holden and a combined five assists from Glass (two), Grabner, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller in Game 4. That's seven points from players in their bottom-six group of forwards, and a goal from a defenseman who scored three in his previous 48 games dating to Jan. 4.

Factor in a 4-1 win in Game 3, when Lindberg and Grabner scored, and Miller and Glass each had an assist, and it adds up to 11 points from their bottom-six group in the past two games, including three each from Lindberg and Glass, who was scratched in Games 1 and 2, each a loss.

The Rangers and Senators are tied 2-2 in the best-of-7 series going to Ottawa for Game 5 on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"It's about four lines doing everything right and that's what you need this time of the year," Lundqvist said.

Video: OTT@NYR, Gm4: Lindberg snipes for second of game

That's exactly what the Rangers didn't have at this time last year, which is a big reason why they bowed out in five games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. 

The Penguins steamrolled the Rangers much in the same way the Rangers steamrolled the Senators in Games 3 and 4, by using their depth, by spreading out their skill on to four lines (i.e. Miller on the fourth line), by playing fast, and by getting contributions from everyone.

Essentially, the lesson the Rangers learned last season against the Penguins was they're simply just better off trying to copy the Penguins than trying to beat them or any other team a different way.

It's working. They're two wins away from potentially facing Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference Final.

Video: OTT@NYR, Gm4: Holden flips puck in to finish rush

"That's been our strength this whole year, that we have four lines and anyone can play against anyone, anyone can do well and score goals," Zuccarello said. "I think that's the strength of our team, and for us to be successful, we need every line to go."

The Rangers' depth, though, isn't just making up the difference on the scoreboard. It is wearing down the Senators and frustrating them.

No Rangers forward has played more than 20 minutes or fewer than 10 in each of the past two games. That kind of ice time allows New York's 12 forwards to constantly be aggressive on the forecheck, to constantly attack Ottawa's defensemen, putting them on their heels.

"As soon as you have four lines contributing, whether it's forecheck or playing good defensively, it gets tough on their D," Lindberg said. "We were playing a little tougher here at home, getting more hits and making it tougher on their D. From doing that, we were able to get more pucks back and get more time in their zone."

Video: OTT@NYR, Gm4: Kreider finishes five-hole for PPG

There is no reason to believe anything will change when they go back to Canadian Tire Centre for Game 5. New York was the better team up there for more minutes in Games 1 and 2. 

The Rangers lost 2-1 in Game 1 because Erik Karlsson scored on a shot out of the corner off of Lundqvist's head at 15:19 of the third period. They let their guard down late in Game 2, gave up a two-goal lead and lost 6-5 in the second overtime.

New York has trailed for 4:11 in this series and has scored the first goal in every game. It has scored four goals in three straight playoff games for the first time since April 16-25, 2008, and has 14 goals from 10 players this series, including eight from six players in the past two games.

"It's not a one-man show here," Lundqvist said.

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