Ryan McDonagh might smile when he thinks about it now, but there was a time when the memory actually brought him to tears.
Last year in the First Round of the playoffs, McDonagh made a crucial error in his own zone in overtime of Game Two against the Washington Capitals. He shot the puck clearly out of play, leading to a Washington power play. The man advantage didn't last long. Mike Green rifled a point shot home, giving the Capitals a 2-0 series lead heading back to New York.
In the interview after the game it was clear McDonagh blamed himself, and many reported it was visible he had been crying over the mistake. The team rallied behind him, around him and supported him before winning that playoff series in seven games. McDonagh was an animal the rest of that series (and was an animal in Game Two, as well) and was a major reason why the Rangers moved on in the first place.
It's a lonely feeling to make the last mistake in a playoff game. It can be consuming, too, if your team isn't there to have your back. But just like when the mistake happened to McDonagh a year ago, the team rallied behind Dan Girardi after Game One. McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin all had words of support for Girardi after the game to the media.
"We talked about the play right away, sitting next to him in the locker room," McDonagh said. "That's how we work through things as a group. Me and him are a pretty talkative pairing. No matter what happens, bad play, good play, we're talking about it, trying to improve, trying to make sure we're on the same page as much as possible.
"If it was flip-flopped and it was me, he would have come to me and asked me, ‘What could we have done better?' That's the beauty of our pairing and the beauty of him, too," McDonagh added. "He doesn't soak in the wounds, so to speak, think about the what-ifs. He just tries to correct it, see what he can do better and we're there supporting him."
Leadership qualities McDonagh has begun oozing aside, little things like this are far more important than they might seem on the surface. You might look at that quote and think it's a cliche, but if you've been watching this team long enough you'll know it's not.
This group -- despite all the protests some made when the Rangers traded guys like Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov -- has really come together like a family the past two years. If you read enough quotes after the games, see the way they react to situations on the ice, the way they rally around teammates who are going through a tough time, you know it's not fake.
And if you don't think that makes all the difference after something like Game One you're wrong. When a team cares about each other as much as this group does adversity pushes them together; from the coach down the very last Black Ace. Teams who aren't as close -- or coaches who aren't as respected in the room -- find themselves splitting under pressure.
The Rangers are not that team. They are battle tested and they are close. They've been down this road before and have come through on the other side. This is a different challenge. This is a tougher challenge. But nothing about this team says quit. Nothing about this team says "abandon a fallen teammate" either.
So yes, the quotes and comments matter. So does the support. Teams who come together can do special things. This team came together a long time ago and they're not about to break any time soon.
Don't say it doesn't matter; because sometimes it's the only thing that does.