NEW YORK -- Dominic Moore wore the Broadway Hat signifying the players' choice for the New York Rangers' player of the game. He was also named the first star of the game Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
These accolades, all well-deserved, came Moore's way only because he scored the winning goal for the Rangers on Saturday in their 2-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.
If somebody else had scored, that player would have gotten the accolades. But if it were up to Moore's teammates, every story written about the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs would include at least a passing mention of No. 28 in blue, white and red.
Moore is that important to New York’s cause, that respected by his teammates, and that big of a player when the games are as big as they are now.
"Guys that play with him understand what he brings, and he brings a lot at this time of the year," Rangers right wing Martin St. Louis said. "He doesn't get a lot of the accolades and the glory, but he does a lot of dirty work that his teammates for sure appreciate."
Moore got the glory Saturday because he was in the right place at the right time. Thirty seconds before he scored he was coming out of the wrong place, the penalty box.
Moore was in the box because he tripped Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman in the middle of the Rangers' zone at 15:05 of the third period in a 1-1 game. Moore knew he was guilty. He didn't argue the call, didn't put up a fight. He skated to the box to take his punishment.
The Rangers killed off the penalty, which says something because Moore is typically one of their most effective and important penalty-killers. Moore came back on the ice and was an absolute demon until he scored.
He led a 3-on-1 rush into the zone only to leave a drop pass that Derick Brassard never saw.
Moore curled back when Lightning captain Steven Stamkos got the puck at Tampa Bay's blue line, and was able to deflect Stamkos' pass enough to cause a turnover. It was a turnover because Moore chased down the puck on the right-wing wall and chipped it up before skating it deep into the Lightning zone.
Eventually, Moore found his way to the front of the net and deposited a centering pass from rookie Kevin Hayes off his right skate and into the net past Lightning goalie Ben Bishop with 2:25 remaining.
"I think the routines he has, the way he prepares, he's a true pro," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "He had it early on. My rookie year was his rookie year. I'm all about preparation and I can see him almost being like a goalie with everything he does to prepare himself to get into the right place going into every game. I think that's why he's been so consistent throughout his career as well. He brings his game to a level that he's helping the team every night. Faceoffs and making great plays and now he's getting more minutes and he deserves it the way he's playing right now."
Moore has played a lot and has been through a lot on and off the ice since 2005-06, his rookie season with the Rangers.
He's played on nine teams and has been traded five times. He didn't play in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season because he lost his wife, Katie, to a battle with cancer on Jan. 7, 2013. The season opened 12 days after Katie passed away.
Wherever he's gone, whenever he's played, he's been an important part of that team, particularly in his past five seasons.
This is the fourth time since 2010 that Moore has played into the conference final. The one time he didn't, in 2012 with the San Jose Sharks, he played in only three playoff games because that was when he found out that Katie was diagnosed with liver cancer.
"I don't take lightly being in these games, and I appreciate the opportunity every time to step on the ice and enjoy it," Moore said.
Center - NYR
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 24 | +/-: -2
It almost seems like Moore relishes his role as a penalty-killing, faceoff-winning third- or fourth-line center as much as he relishes playing at this time of the year. Nothing about his game is fancy and just about everything is gritty.
Moore is in many ways a coach's best friend. He's not a top-line player, but he keeps the puck in the zone like one while also playing a big role in keeping the puck out of the net.
He has a 52.40 shot-attempts percentage (SAT), which is third among Rangers' forwards who have played in all 13 playoff games. He is averaging 2:03 per game on the penalty kill. Moore hasn't been on the ice for any of the four power-play goals the Rangers have allowed.
New York is 28-for-32 on the PK in the playoffs.
"He does that third- and fourth-line role and he kind of perfects it," Hayes said. "You can learn a lot from him."
Moore was one of the veteran players Hayes leaned on earlier this season, when he was re-learning how to play the center position after being a right wing at Boston College.
"He helped me a lot at the beginning of the year when I was playing center," said Hayes, who played right wing on the top line Saturday. "He showed me a lot of film on myself, and him, and faceoffs. He's always looking to help people out.
Moore has been a sounding board for center Derek Stepan, who has historically struggled in the faceoff circle.
"He understands our group and he's been real strong for us," Stepan said. "When we need advice he's right there for us."
When the Rangers need a big performance, a winning performance, Moore usually delivers with timely plays that don't typically result in ink on the scoresheet. That changed Saturday.
Moore's first goal in the 2015 playoffs was the game-winner in Game 1 against the Lightning. That's why he is getting all the accolades now, why this column is all about him, but it's everything else Moore does that makes him so valuable to the Rangers.
"This time of the year, the way he plays, he becomes even more important," St. Louis said. "He's a guy that can really grind it out and be tough to play against. He brings a lot of pucks to the net and protects the puck really well. I've had a chance to play with him in Tampa in the playoffs. He was a key contributor then, last year he was a key contributor, and again this year. This is the kind of play we need from everybody, but I'm glad [Moore] got rewarded [Saturday]."