PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers were playing their fourth game in six days. With Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime, it would have been difficult to blame them if they ran out of gas.
However, the Rangers found the energy to propel them to a 3-2 win against the Penguins.
New York carried play in the first period, taking a 2-0 lead, but when the Penguins ramped things up in the second, scoring twice and outshooting the Rangers 15-4, it looked like the final fumes were running out of their gas tank.
However, the Rangers continued to push. They were outshot 12-8 in the third period, but New York had the better of the scoring chances. And it was the same in overtime, when the Rangers had two of the three shots in the extra period, capped by Derick Brassard's goal at 3:06 of overtime.
"We came out with a great start tonight," New York defenseman Dan Girardi said. "We let it go in the second. We sat back and let them dictate play. We were lucky to survive that [period] with being tied. We had a good third and we had a good feeling going into overtime. We worked hard right off the bat, got a few chances and luckily one went in."
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Sunday at Consol Energy Center (7:30 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS, NBCSN).
The key for the Rangers was the way coach Alain Vigneault rolled all four lines and all three defense pairs from the opening whistle till Brassard's game-winner.
Vigneault played his second defense pair of Marc Staal (26:03) and Anton Stralman (22:59) more than he played his top pairing of Ryan McDonagh (23:49) and Girardi (20:51).
And at forward, Derek Stepan played 20:11, but every forward had at least 10 minutes of ice time, and seven had at least 15 minutes.
"We played pretty much our whole bench pretty even minutes," Vigneault said. "Forwards and defensemen. Guys had good energy, they were focused."
That level of trust from the coaching staff, to make everyone feel important in important games, brings confidence to the entire locker room.
"I think that really helps our game when we can role the lines and not overuse anyone, use the whole bench," Girardi said. "All the lines are a threat, all the [defensemen] can play. We're lucky to have a deep team now, and that's going to go a long way in the playoffs with hopefully a long playoff run."