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Rangers' defenseman Marc Staal comes up big against Penguins

Marc Staal skates with the puck during the

Marc Staal skates with the puck during the second period of a game against the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 12, 2013. Credit: AP

PITTSBURGH -- All the pregame attention went to defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi, who were assigned to bottle up Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

But Marc Staal wound up as the stalwart of the blue line, playing a team-high 26:03 that included 4:41 shorthanded to keep the Penguins scoreless on four power plays. He was awarded the Broadway Hat.

"The way he keeps the game so simple is something we talk about every time," Benoit Pouliot said. "Get that big block or make that pass, he's always going to be in position to help us out. Sometimes you don't recognize it, but we do."

Coach Alain Vigneault also praised Staal. "He's got one of the best sticks in the league; he did a good job gapping up. Him and Strallsy [Anton Stralman] have found a way to complement each other."

Blue notes

It was Pittsburgh's sixth one-goal game of the postseason, highest of any team . . . It was the Rangers' first series opener with an overtime victory since Game 1 of the Patrick Division finals on April 17, 1986 at Washington . . . The Rangers have won eight of the last 10 playoff series in which they won Game 1 . . . While shorthanded, Martin St. Louis just missed two deflections set up by Mats Zuccarello . . . Derek Stepan led the Rangers with five shots . . . Chris Kreider (left hand surgery March 28) went on ice late in the morning skate wearing a non-contact jersey, and appears to be creeping closer to a return. Kreider, who has missed 18 games, was stickhandling better and flipping shots . . . J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, Raphael Diaz and Justin Falk were healthy scratches for the Rangers.

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