Commentary

Rangers show will to win in triple OT

In Game 3's thriller, team effort gives Blueshirts 2-1 series lead over Capitals

Updated: May 3, 2012, 11:39 AM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

WASHINGTON -- It took more than 114 minutes, 49 shots, more than a dozen stitches and a hell of a lot of heart, but the New York Rangers did it.

Struggling sniper Marian Gaborik snapped a nagging slump in the most poignant way possible, tallying the game winner in triple overtime to give the Rangers a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals in Wednesday's marathon session that didn't end until after midnight ET.

The stunning victory, which ended the Rangers' seven-game overtime playoff losing streak, tilted the series 2-1 for New York while affirming one axiom that has been true to the Black-and-Blueshirts all season:

This team has guts.

"It was about will," Gaborik said. "We wanted to win this game, and it feels great to get the winner."

Held without a goal in eight games, Gaborik ended the team's longest game in 73 years and fifth-longest in history, burying a beautiful feed from Brad Richards to grant the two teams a reprieve from the grueling battle at 14:41 of the third sudden-death session.

When it was over, there was one prevailing sentiment.

"I think it's relief, almost," said defenseman Marc Staal, who joked that he ate five bananas in between periods for energy. "You put so much emotion and heart into such a grind of a game like that, to see it cross the line, it was obvious elation. But you're relived to get a win after all the hard work."

In overtime alone, there was Henrik Lundqvist's phenomenal glove save to deny Dennis Wideman, Ryan Callahan's heroic effort to block Jason Chimera's shot, defenseman Ryan McDonagh's ironman 53:17 of ice time, and both Brian Boyle and Dan Girardi boasting blood-stained jerseys as badges of honor.

What kept them going?

"Knowing the guy next to me is doing the same way," McDonagh said. "Whoever was out there was battling. Huge block shots, Hankie was on his game the entire way, so focused. Everybody put forth such a great effort. It was an unbelievable feeling to win."

McDonagh said he sensed the team secure a second wind going into the third period, and the Rangers seemed to have the palpable edge in energy between two teams that had been sapped beyond belief.

For a club that has grinded its way to the top, scratched and clawed and bruised every inch of the way, this game was perhaps its greatest display of resilience all season.

"When you get into that many hours of playing, it becomes a mental game," coach John Tortorella said. "I felt as the game got longer and longer, I felt that our team was at an advantage. I think we have a mentally tough group. ... Just not giving in, that was the key."

Mental toughness can take a team only so far without its stars, and with Gaborik disappearing for stretches this postseason, he stepped up in the biggest moment of all.

"I just tried to get open," Gaborik said of Richards' setup from behind the goal line. "It was a beautiful pass. I just tried to get good wood on it."

Gaborik entered the game with assists in the previous two games, and he recorded a third before the clincher, but the monumental marker is what the Rangers hope can propel him forward.

"I hope it gets Gabby going," Tortorella said. "It's a guy we need as we continue. Remember this is just one game."

But, it was definitely one to remember.

"Everybody contributed," Gaborik said. "Everybody left everything out there."

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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