It was a game Roger Neilson would have loved. Of course John Tortorella didn't mind it much himself.

For this Rangers coach who left his Safe is Death philosophy behind somewhere in a television studio when he was between jobs in Tampa Bay and New York, was beaming following last night's 1-0 Garden victory over the 27th-overall Panthers that could have been lifted from the Captain Video's playbook.

"I thought it was very important to win a game like that at this time of year," Tortorella said after his club's fifth straight victory and seventh in the past eight games moved the seventh-place Rangers within three points of sixth-place Montreal while maintaining a six-point edge over ninth-place Carolina.

"I'm happy with our patience and the way we stuck with it. After an emotional win [in Pittsburgh on Sunday], it was [a question of] whether we were going to be ready, and we were.

"These guys get it."

The Rangers never yielded to frustration as the game droned on in a scoreless tie through 20 minutes, through 40 minutes, through 45 minutes of trapping, shallow forechecking and chipping the puck in and out in a match that belonged as much on a chessboard as on a rink.