J.T. Miller comes up big for Rangers in his first playoff appearance
Head coach Alain Vigneault was asked about his decision to dress and start J.T. Miller.
In response, the coach grinned as he pantomimed rolling dice. And, really, why wouldn’t he feel good? His decision to dress Miller instead of Dan Carcillo came up sevens in the Rangers’ 4-2 win in Game 5 Sunday afternoon.
Miller, who shuttled between the Rangers and AHL Hartford for the majority of the regular season, finished with an assist and a plus-2 rating in 10:22 of ice time Sunday, as he skated on a line with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin in his first career Stanley Cup playoff game.
“He’s fearless,” Richards said of his new right wing. “He has that type of mentality. You can kind of predict that this wasn’t going to overwhelm him because he has that type of character. It was a good first game in the playoffs for him to jump in. He played big minutes and played an important role.”
Miller made Vigneault look prescient, whereas Hal Gill caused Flyers head coach Craig Berube to look as if he rolled snake eyes for dressing the veteran defenseman.
Gill, who had only played in six regular season games, was minus-2 in 12:02 of ice time and was involved in the play that essentially decided the game. Gill, in the lineup for Nicklas Grossman, who was injured in the Flyers’ 2-1 win in Game 4, lost the puck in his skates after Dominic Moore deflected Braydon Coburn’s pass before watching the Ranger center speed in and beat Steve Mason for the game-winning goal.
“Gill is a real good professional,” Vigneault said. “He’s been in the league for a long time, and he’s been in the league a long time because he’s a good player. We know he’s one of their six defensemen and we’re trying to put pressure on all of them.”
The decision to play Miller was not Vigneault’s only inkling, as he suspected the officiating crew of referees Justin St. Pierre and Brad Watson, and linesmen Scott Cherrey and Brad Kovachik, would not overturn a disallowed power-play goal in the second period which would have given the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
“Stuff like that is going to happen,” Vigneault said. “You just have to keep playing and that’s what we were saying on the bench, ‘Just got to keep playing.’ That’s what we did. I didn’t need anybody to tell me [why the goal was disallowed]. It’s pretty obvious.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.