It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.

Rangers coach John Tortorella didn’t want to bench Brad Richards, but he felt he had no other choice. The game was passing the veteran center by on the top lines and Tortorella and Richards agreed the time allotted to him on the fourth line wasn’t suitable to his skill-set.

So Tortorella sat the former Conn Smythe winner in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bruins, hoping to give the fourth line the physical spark the Rangers needed after getting pushed around for three games.

The difficult decision, which also saw Arron Asham a scratch, paid off with energy and a 4-3 overtime win at Madison Square Garden after Micheal Haley and Kris Newbury were inserted into action with Derek Dorsett.

“I look at the fourth line, I’m looking just to get some sort of life and some sort of identity on that fourth line and that’s where Brad comes out and I go with these guys here,” Tortorella said. “You get some fresh legs, you get some enthusiasm. ... I thought they gave us some good shifts. For the most part, I thought they did a pretty good job.”

Newbury, who played six games in the regular season, hadn’t played since Game 1 of the opening round against Washington, and Haley, who made nine appearances in his first season with the Rangers, hadn’t played since March 19 and was appearing in his first career playoff game.

Both players said adjusting to the long layoffs wasn’t much of an issue because the linemates shared similar styles and knew that going into the game, forechecking was going to be their focus. For the Rangers, the forecheck is always the focus.