When Dan Boyle was flattened by Nicklas Backstrom's check from behind in the waning seconds of Game 1, it was a distraction for his teammates. They stopped playing for a fraction of a second, and Joel Ward ended up scoring the Capitals' winning goal with 1.3 seconds remaining.

In Game 2, Boyle used a distraction -- in this case Rick Nash's screen -- to score the Rangers' second goal.

With the Rangers on the power play, Nash had been knocked down in front of Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. He popped back up and his ample frame blocked much of Holtby's view as Boyle got the puck at the left point. Boyle let go a shot that Holtby couldn't see until it was too late, and the puck found its way cleanly into the net for a two-goal lead at 15:40 of the first period.

The Rangers hung on for a 3-2 victory at Madison Square Garden and gained a split of the first two games of the second-round playoff series. Game 3 will be played Monday night in Washington.

Nash "was occupying the goalie's eyes," Boyle said. "That puck didn't go in without him . . . That's what you've got to do to score goals at this level and at this time of year, so he deserves most of the credit."

Some credit also goes to Boyle's ability to recover from the Game 1 hit. After Backstrom's check, which conked Boyle on the head, the defenseman said he felt dazed and as if he had had his "bell rung." Still, the 38-year-old insisted on Friday that he was good to go for the matinee game Saturday.

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Boyle's goal also helped make up for a later miscue, when Evgeny Kuznetsov beat him on a rebound off a shot by Jason Chimera. Boyle failed to tie up Kuznetsov and the ensuing goal, at 13:59 of the second period, cut the Rangers' lead to 2-1.

"It was a little too close for our liking," Boyle said, pointing specifically at a feverish third period in which the Capitals rattled off 12 shots and Alex Ovechkin personally victimized Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, splitting the flanking defenders before sending the puck into the top left corner of the net while falling to the ice to make it 3-2.

"We bent but we didn't break at the end,'' Boyle said, "and we come up with a huge win."

It helped that he pulled off the best trick of all: solving a Capitals penalty kill that is 19-for-20 this postseason. The Rangers' power play was 1-for-4 Saturday.

"You look across at our power plays and it's not a high percentage," Boyle said. "You just have to find a way to get that goal. The penalty-killers, guys are just blocking shots and they're getting in their lanes, and at the end of the day, that was a huge second goal."