"Doing the little things" is a phrase just ambiguous enough to sound like clichéd coach-speak, but here was Rangers coach John Tortorella after his team's 3-2 victory over the Lightning in Tampa, on Saturday night, putting ground underneath that floating axiom.

"I thought our line changes were better," Tortorella said, completely stone-faced and serious about an issue that to most is, at best, overlooked. "We talked about that. Those little things add up to giving you a fair shake to win a hockey game."

Yes, the Rangers went into the game leading the league with four too-many-men penalties — a fine number for a whole season but horrifying through seven games. So Tortorella actually addressed it, addressed how and when to jump over the boards, the simplest of tasks in a hockey game that all NHL players have been doing since they were young.

It's just one example of the kind of details that have to be fine-tuned in order to win at the highest level. Fans and players alike love the highlight-reel goals and the monstrous hits, but coaches know all the gritty, boring little things are the foundation.

"Down below the hash marks, as Torts likes to say, we were cycling the puck, we were strong on the puck," said backup goalie Martin Biron, who had a great view Saturday when he got his first start of the season. "We didn't lose many battles down there. We kept playing in their zone and that's really what we wanted to do. That's what we've been trying to accomplish and [Saturday] we were able to do it."

There was something a little bigger the Rangers also did well, and that was taking less penalties. When you don't do the little things right, as Tortorella might have said, you end up making dumb plays. And dumb plays usually result in penalties, which usually end with the puck in the back of your net.

"We were more disciplined," Tortorella said after the team took just one penalty, a second-period hook by Stu Bickel, earning him a total of two more shifts the whole game.

In the early part of this 48-game, lockout-shortened season, the biggest difficulty for the Rangers (4-4-0) was with their mindset. They made mistakes that reeked of not being emotionally prepared, and for a team that prides itself on winning games because of their willingness to not cut corners, the situation they were in was disconcerting.