For the third time in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, the New York Rangers had a chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead in a playoff series. For the third straight time the Rangers failed, as the New Jersey Devils downed New York 3-2 Wednesday to tie the Eastern Conference finals at one game apiece.
The wrath of fiery Rangers head coach John Tortorella was on full display during the game, and while Tortotella usually reserves his disdain for the media, leading scorer Marian Gaborik received a helping as well.
Tortorella benched the 10-year pro—who tallied 41 goals and 35 assists during the regular season—for nearly 13 minutes in the second and third periods, apparently for not making a play on the puck that led to Ryan Carter's goal late in the second period, which tied the game at 2-2.
Given that Tortorella's postgame press conference was about a minute long, not much information about the benching was forthcoming from the coach, and Gaborik didn't shed a whole lot more light on the subject when speaking with CBS New York after the game.
"On the second goal, I didn’t get the puck out, I guess. I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him," Gaborik said.
However, it may not have been just one play that got Gaborik the hook from Tortorella, who isn't one to tolerate player mistakes, according to an Associated Press report published by Sports Illustrated.
Besides not getting the puck out, Gaborik also seemed to fail to do what all his teammates have done this season. He didn't block the shot by defenseman Bryce Salvador from the blue line.
Gaborik seemed to stand straight up like a pencil and didn't stretch his body out to block the shot. Carter tipped it and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist didn't have a chance to stop it.
Regardless of the reasons for his trip to the bench, much like a closer who just blew a save in baseball, Gaborik needs to have a very short memory, as the series now moves to Newark for a pivotal Game 3 on Saturday.
It's imperative that the Rangers get back to the kind of hockey that led to a 3-0 victory in the series opener. That means trying to set the tempo and re-establish a defense that frustrated the Devils with a multitude of blocked shots in Game 1—much as the Devils frustrated opponents for years with their trapping style.
The Rangers are also going to have to be much better on the boards than they were in Game 2, when the Devils seemed to dominate the action against the glass. In addition, New York needs to start the game more aggressively, as getting more than the paltry five shots on goal New York had in the first period of Game 2 will help keep the Devils from getting overly comfortable on their home ice.
All of these will be much easier to accomplish with Marian Gaborik on the ice and with his head in the game, so the 30-year-old needs to shake off any ill will or hard feelings he may have about riding the pine Wednesday and get back to the business of trying to win the coolest trophy in all of sports.