There are moments in the Stanley Cup Playoffs which are simply "series changers." Those moments don't mean mean the series is over, but it signifies a significant swing in momentum during any series.
The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals had that moment sitting right in front of them on Monday. In the end, the Rangers took it thanks to a triple-overtime goal by Marian Gaborik. Obviously it's a series changing goal for the sheer wealth of emotions that comes with winning a game like that. But the win did so much more.
1) It gave the Rangers a 2-1 series lead, which isn't lethal at all, but it gives New York home ice advantage again. Even if the Rangers lose on Saturday it's still a three-game series with two of those games at Madison Square Garden. Don't discount how big of a deal this is mentally for the Rangers.
2) It was Gaborik who scored the goal. I've been saying all along he hasn't been as bad as some of you are saying he is. There hasn't been space for him, and he's still contributed with two goals and five assists for seven points. Only Brad Richards (four goals and five assists) has had more points for the Rangers so far this postseason.
Join me after the jump for more.
Let's stick with the Gaborik point. He hasnt been scoring goals at the rate he was in the regular season, and you could see the frustration in his game. It's a funny fact about hockey, but when you're struggling nothing seems to go right. Gaborik hit about three posts over his eight-game scoreless streak, including one in Game 3 against the Ottawa Senators. Logic tells you that if just one of those goes in then his confidence would have been where it was during the season.
Well, he scored a pretty big goal Monday night. And that's kind of the point. From a mental standpoint, he should be as confident as he has ever been in his career. But for every single person pointing their finger at Gaborik and saying, "about time you showed up" I'll argue that he's been here the whole time.
Sometimes it's not just about goals, even for a sniper. Sometimes just the danger of having a player like Gaborik on the ice is enough when things aren't bouncing his way.
Even though Gaborik had been without a goal in eight games the Capitals' defenders still made a point to swarm him when he had the puck. That makes it harder for Gaborik to score. It also makes it more impressive that he's contributed the way he has.
While watching the game with my friend Ant on Monday, I called the line of Mike Rupp, Brian Boyle and Gaborik the "Line Of Misfit Toys." I called them this mainly because the overwhelming majority think Rupp shouldn't be playing in overtime, Boyle isn't the same player post concussion and Gaborik couldn't buy a goal if he came to the rink with a pot of gold.
They proved the doubters wrong, no? Gaborik scored the game winning goal. Rupp would have scored the game winning goal if it wasn't for Boyle. And Boyle was willing to block a shot with his face and not miss a shift for his team.
And there is the danger. Gaborik found the back of the net when it mattered.
He generally does.