It's often what tips the scales in the playoffs: a different player stepping up each game, and a fluky goal.
Dominic Moore's turn was Saturday afternoon.
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With the score tied at 1 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals and time winding down in regulation at Madison Square Garden, Kevin Hayes threw the puck toward the net from a sharp angle from the left side, with Moore battling in front. "Didn't even see him," Hayes said.
The puck caromed off Moore's shin pad and past Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop with 2:25 left for a 2-1 victory as the Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Moore's last three playoff goals have been game-winners, including the shot that lifted the Rangers past Montreal into the Stanley Cup Final last season.
"At this time of year, the style he plays, it gets magnified what he brings to a team," Martin St. Louis said. "He plays in all the greasy areas, he's important on our PK, wins a lot of faceoffs, likes to take pucks to the net, protects the puck really well. He's a key contributor."
The Rangers, who host the Lightning in Game 2 Monday night, had just killed off Moore's tripping penalty before the game-winner.
Bishop, who made 28 saves, chalked up the loss to "an unfortunate bounce" but Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said, "Give them credit. They drove the net, they had guys buzzing around down there and they got the break."
In yet another high-intensity but low-scoring playoff matchup, the Rangers won for the seventh time this postseason with two or fewer goals, tying the NHL record (Devils 2000, Hurricanes 2002, Ducks 2003). If you believe in trends, that mark likely will be broken.
It was the Rangers' 15th consecutive one-goal game in the playoffs dating to last season's Stanley Cup Final.
"This is a comfortable place for us to be," said St. Louis, who would be even more comfortable if he had scored in any of the last 13 games. "We've been in tight games all year in the playoffs. We're used to it."
Unlike the games against the Capitals in the previous round, the pace was far quicker. The Rangers controlled much of the first period and came close to scoring several times after coach Alain Vigneault tweaked two lines, moving Hayes to the top trio with Rick Nash and Derick Brassard and putting St. Louis with Carl Hagelin and Moore.
But neither team could score until Derek Stepan, who scored in overtime in Game 7 against Washington, fired a rebound past a stickless Bishop with 12.7 seconds left in the second period. Bishop's stick had been loosened by contact with Chris Kreider.
The lead did not last long. Early in the third period, Ryan McDonagh's high stick on Tyler Johnson gave Tampa Bay its second power play, and the Lightning tied the score at 6:45 on a one-timer by Ondrej Palat over Henrik Lundqvist's glove from the right circle.
"I'm just happy with the way we rebounded from the goal," said Lundqvist, who made 23 saves. "We took a couple penalties [including Moore's trip of Anton Stralman at 15:05] and put ourselves in a tough spot. We managed to keep our cool.''
Tampa Bay played without former Rangers forward Brian Boyle, who was out with an undisclosed injury. Former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who had an emergency appendectomy Monday, was not effective, with no shots on goal and only two hits.
Lightning star Steven Stamkos was limited to one shot on goal. Tampa Bay had only 24 shots and was outhit 30-18.
"I don't think we tested Lundqvist as much as we should have," Stamkos said. "Not a lot of quality shots. Not a lot of shots, period."
Lundqvist, who is 9-4 with a 1.38 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage in this year's playoffs, appreciated that a different teammate had stepped up.
"We have skill,'' he said, "but there's no way we can win consistently if you're always going to rely on making great plays or rely on unbelievable efforts. You have to rely on your team game."