Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

PITTSBURGH - 'Discipline is huge," Derek Stepan said.

"I think we were disciplined," Carl Hagelin said.

"We're a disciplined team," coach Alain Vigneault said.

"We're trying to keep our discipline, and play the game, play hockey," Martin St. Louis said.

"We're trying to stay disciplined," Derick Brassard said. "Obviously."

Obviously.

The Rangers made that extremely clear Tuesday, a day off on which they did not practice after defeating the Penguins, 2-1, in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series.

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It has been a series in which the less-accomplished Pens have sought to disrupt the Presidents' Trophy winners by using their sticks to make statements across the ice and their bodies to distract Henrik Lundqvist at his end of it.

How about a quick review of some Penguins penalties so far?

Game 1: slash, crosscheck. Game 2: high stick, high stick, slash, hook, slash, hook. Game 3: crosscheck, crosscheck, crosscheck.

Oh, and also a goaltender interference in Game 1.

This is not to suggest the Rangers are without sin. It's an NHL playoff series, after all. But the Blueshirts are trying to balance standing up for themselves without being suckered into damaging reactions.

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"We didn't take any stupid penalties, but at the same time, I think we played hard, finished our checks and we definitely battled hard all game," Hagelin said of Game 3.

Said Brassard: "It's a hard series. We were expecting that and they have some guys that are competing really hard and they're trying to push back, and we're ready for that."

Lundqvist made it clear after Game 3 he was not a fan of the Penguins' antics in and around him, including a bump from Sidney Crosby that sent him tumbling, as well as a hit from Chris Kunitz.

Vigneault said after the game he has pointed out the issue to referees. Tuesday, he seemed fed up with the matter.

"It is what it is," he said. "We're a disciplined team. We try to play whistle to whistle and that's what we're going to continue to try to do."

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The Penguins were not in complete agreement with any of the above, as you might have guessed.

"For everything we do, they do, too," Ian Cole said Tuesday after the Penguins practiced. "I don't think this is a one-sided series as far as viciousness or dirty play."

The truth is somewhere in the middle, as usual, but it says here that the Penguins have been more the aggressors, often in an ungentlemanly way.

(Speaking of ungentlemanly behavior, after Game 3, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford ran into Pittsburgh columnist Rob Rossi, who has been highly critical of him, and unleashed a string of expletives at the writer before finally suggesting he "go sell ice cream now.")

There is nothing to be gained for the Rangers in falling into the Penguins' trap. Better to wait for penalties to be called and hope the power play can get in gear and take advantage.

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"We knew it would be like that from the get-go, and it's expected," St. Louis said. "There's stuff that happens on the ice and you move on from it."

What about the Kunitz hit that seemed to particularly rile Lundqvist?

"It's hard to control what the opponents are going to do," St. Louis said. "We've got to be big boys and be smart about it. There's a time and a place to get your licks in.

"You've got to stay composed."

Composed! Another word for disciplined.