PITTSBURGH -- New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said prior to Game 7 of his team's Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins that he wanted to get a solid start and be able to roll all four forward lines the entire game.
He was able to check off each item on one shift 5:25 into the game when fourth-line forward Brian Boyle scored the game's opening goal.
It sparked the Rangers to a 2-1 victory Tuesday night and a trip to the Eastern Conference Final for the second time in three years.
Generally a fourth line is used to spell the top players and hopefully generate energy. Boyle and Dominic Moore have done more than that during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, supplying a surprising amount of offense (each has two goals and four points in 14 games), along with sturdy defensive play and penalty killing.
The third player on the line has rotated among Daniel Carcillo, Jesper Fast and Derek Dorsett, who played Tuesday and helped set up Boyle's goal.
Boyle blocked a Matt Niskanen pass at the New York blue line and Dorsett picked it up and started a breakout. Dorsett entered the Pittsburgh zone and as he took a hit centered a pass to Boyle, who flicked it to his right to Dominic Moore. Moore sent a return pass to Boyle in the slot, and he beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury between his pads.
"We were on the minus train for a couple games there," Boyle said. "It was time to put an end to that. Just a great play by [Dorsett] to get it over the line and get it in. Made a great play to the middle and Dom with a good pass again. ... Dom made the pass and it hit a stick to slow down. ... I tried to find a spot through his legs and it worked."
The Rangers preach attacking with speed, which means short shifts to keep legs fresh for an entire game. Being able to play four lines keeps the Rangers' top offensive performers energized heading into the latter stages of games, so having a fourth line that can contribute in games is vital to their success.
"The farther we go the more we'll see deeper teams with four lines," Boyle said. "I think it's going to be very important for us. We need to play well and we need to contribute. ... We love contributing and we love playing with one another. We want more. That's the biggest reason I think our line has done well. We didn't want to be a typical fourth line that plays short minutes. We want to keep going and play big minutes."