New York Rangers\' Marc Staal, left, Brandon Dubinsky, second from left, and Dan Girardi (5) celebrate with Marian Gaborik after he scored in the second period of Game 4 of a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs series at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, April 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Like many New York Rangers supporters, Marian Gaborik shut off the TV after a long, frustrating, disappointing night and went to sleep.
And just like many full-throated fans who taunted Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau during Game 4 on Wednesday night, when the Rangers held a seemingly comfortable three-goal lead, Gaborik never expected his night would turn so badly after it started out so well.
Never known for his play in the defensive end, Gaborik was trying to do the right thing in the second overtime of Game 4. The Rangers were trying to pull out a win that would have evened the series 2-2 and one they thought they had in the bag when they jumped out to a 3-0 edge—a lead they held after two periods that included a long-awaited goal from top-line forward Gaborik.
On what appeared to be an innocent play in the New York end, a puck deflected toward the Rangers net, and Gaborik went after it. Gaborik didn't realize that goalie Henrik Lundqvist had matters under control and was primed to cover the puck to stop play.
Gaborik didn't see Lundqvist, and didn't hear him, either, when he stuck his stick into the crease to sweep the puck out of danger. But what else Gaborik didn't see was Capitals forward Jason Chimera, who blocked the clearing attempt, got the puck on his stick, and knocked in the winning goal 12:36 into double overtime.
Instead of being tied 2-2, the Rangers are down 3-1 in the series and will be facing elimination in Game 5 on Saturday in Washington.
"I just went home, watched the replay because I didn't see it at the rink," Gaborik said of how he spent the rest of Wednesday. "I had dinner and went to bed. It was a tough one to swallow, but you've just got to move by it. You can't look back and beat yourself up with it."
Unfortunately for Gaborik, there are plenty of others willing to take shots at the star forward.
Last season, his first with the Rangers after he signed a five-year, US$37.5 million deal to leave Minnesota, Gaborik led the offence with 42 goals and a career-best 44 assists in 76 games. It wasn't enough to get New York back into the playoffs, but those were the kinds of numbers people expected from him and were often missing from other high-priced free agents who excelled elsewhere but failed in New York.
This season is when the disappointment set in. Injuries limited Gaborik to 62 games, and when he played, he didn't produce the way he had before. He had 22 goals and 48 points, but 10 of those goals were scored in three games—including a four-goal outburst on Jan. 19 against Toronto and two other hat tricks.
Gaborik had no goals in the final nine games of the regular season and only one assist in the first three games of the series against Washington before his second-period tally gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead on Wednesday.
He had a quick one-timer during a power play that was stopped by goalie Michal Neuvirth and a few other near misses, too.
"I feel good," Gaborik said. "The chances were there. It's too bad a couple of those didn't go in, but you just have to carry it over. The play at the end of the game, it's a bad bounce there. I just have to kind of jump over it and put it behind and just focus on the next game.
"It is what is. You just have to go forward."
Even though the Rangers' power play has been basically nonexistent against the Capitals, Gaborik had good reason to think things were turning around for him. It is ironic that a failed defensive play put him back in a spot to be criticized.
"It happened," Rangers coach John Tortorella said Thursday. "Hank wanted to tie it up, Gabby didn't realize it. You guys can beat that up as much as you want. It's just a flukey play. Call it for what it is."
The Rangers tried to sound upbeat Thursday, as they did after returning home before Game 3 following losses in the first two games of the series in Washington. The feelings and belief are still there, even though the stakes have been raised and the margin for error eliminated.
With two days off before Game 5, the Rangers stayed off the ice Thursday and began the process of looking ahead instead of dwelling on the past.
"That's what we do. We're professionals," Gaborik said. "Everybody has got to move by these things. We have our next game on Saturday and we want to do everything so we can come up with a win. We need one win and just go from there."