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Rangers Vs. Penguins: Special Hayes

Notes from the Rangers OT win over the Penguins.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

- If there is ever a swing game that isn't a series-deciding game it's last night. Not only was it overtime, but it's a 2-1 series. TA win and the Rangers would take a commanding 3-1 series lead. A loss and the series would be tied going back to Madison Square Garden Friday. It's essentially two different series based off one result, and to have the game go to overtime made it even more nerve wracking.

- I've thought Kevin Hayes, for what it's worth, was pretty good in Game 1 and then ran into a bit of a wall in Game 2. I liked him in Game 3 and he was obviously the hero of Game 4. Imagine scoring your first ever NHL playoff goal in overtime to give your team a commanding 3-1 series lead? Has to be pretty cool.

- Hopefully this game opens the floodgates for Hayes. He's had a few chances this series he wasn't able to bury, so maybe this gets him going. He's such an important part to this team, especially in terms of his ability to bang bodies and put pucks into the back of the net.

- My favorite thing about the overtime goal? The goal. My second favorite thing? Keith Yandle completely missing Hayes on the celebration and then jumping into Matt Hunwick's arms and keeping him from the pile. It was spectacular.

- For as invisible as Martin St. Louis has been, he was massive on that game-winning goal.

- Carl Hagelin continues to be one of the most under appreciated Rangers; especially in the playoffs.

- These are the find-a-way Rangers without question. The first period might have been the worst period of hockey I've ever seen. Like, in all of hockey bad. Two shots? Actually, forget the two shots in the first, how about the four shots through the first 28 minutes of the game? You or I playing wouldn't have made the Rangers any worse the first half of the game and that's saying something.

- My point? That's an unacceptable 30 minutes of hockey. And that falls on Alain Vigneault. According to the media, he laced into the team between the first and the second. Good for him, but that kind of effort can't happen again.

- But they won. The Rangers took over the second half of the second period, and aside from an absolute panic moment from Henrik Lundqvist (who owes Dan Girardi a surf and turf dinner for the play he made at the end of the third), the Rangers locked it down and played a solid third period. Rick Nash got robbed, Mats Zuccarello just missed finishing a 2-on-1 chance and then in overtime Dominic Moore just missed ending the game a little earlier. The Rangers did have their chances.

- I fully believe the Rangers lose that game if they're down 1-0 going into the third. Derick Brassard (who is Mr. Playoffs may I add) scored a dirty goal -- which is exactly what the Rangers needed at that time. I've gotten on the Rangers for being too fancy and I think they got a little fancy when they just needed to get the puck on the net.

- Girardi -- for all his warts -- is one of the only reasons (outside of Lundqvist and Hayes) why the Rangers won. A huge play on the Lundqvist "this third period isn't exciting enough so let's make about the worst play I can possible make with less than a minute left in a critical game" and then an enormous block in overtime on a chance that was easily good enough to end the game. I think I've said this before, but I like him and McDonagh as the top pairing. And in the playoffs, they're able to throw a wet blanket over whatever they need to.

- And Ryan McDonagh was just as good. That top pairing did a great job shutting down whatever was thrown at them.

- The power play? Again, you or I at the point wouldn't make it any worse.

- Much better game from Dan Boyle, no?

- I want to make this note pretty clear: Anyone who thinks this series is over is out of their minds. The Rangers created the blueprint last year to overcome a 3-1 deficit and it was against these Penguins. The Rangers need to step on the throat on Friday. The longer this series lasts the worse things are. I imagine Penguins fans felt a lot like we do right now last year, and remember how that ended. So the Rangers need to know Game 5 is just as important for them as it is for the Penguins.

13 to go.