Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.
Marian Gaborik is the star scorer on a team that professes to win by having no stars, save for the man in goal. This can make for odd situations, such as the first 110 or so minutes of the Rangers' epic Game 3 win here early Thursday morning.
Gaborik played plenty through five-plus periods of tight hockey, doing a few of the little things he needed to do, such as taking a hit to make a play or cycling the puck below the goal line when there was no path to the net -- and there hasn't been, not in this game or in this series or even in the entire tight-checking postseason.
But his game is scoring goals. That's what defines Gaborik, what made the Rangers give him $37.5 million over five years in that first week of July 2009, the first bold move by Glen Sather in the John Tortorella coaching era.
And Gaborik was not scoring for the first 110-plus minutes of Game 3, as he had not scored in the previous eight games.
"I think he feels the pressure when he's not scoring," Henrik Lundqvist said.
It's the conundrum of being the scorer on a team that scores few goals and defends its tail off. Ryan McDonagh led the free world with 53:17 of ice time, a ridiculous number. Ryan Callahan looked like Gump Worsley in the overtimes, sprawling chin first to block shots. Lundqvist made some huge saves.
All of these are the main traits of Tortorella's Rangers, but they still need Gaborik, and he needed that third-OT goal like no one else. From Tortorella on down, everyone knew what Gaborik's winner could mean for the team and the player, who has only two goals in 10 playoff games after 41 in the regular season.
"He played a great game, a great OT," Marc Staal said. "He's a big guy in this room."
Tortorella doesn't enjoy singling out players in the postseason, but between Games 2 and 3, he acknowledged that Gaborik needed to get going. "He's been OK," the coach allowed. "We obviously need him to score goals."
Gaborik is a good soldier, even if he is not one of the foot-soldiers Tortorella leans on to preserve one-goal leads. Gaborik played the first eight of his NHL seasons for Jacques Lemaire and the Wild, and Lemaire is as stern a defensive taskmaster as Tortorella is. It's one of the reasons the Rangers felt Gaborik could fit in Tortorella's team-first system.
But even for Gaborik, this postseason has been a slog. When he's going well, the puck finds him, even in a tangle of skates and sticks. To find the pucks and room to shoot, Gaborik needs to be in the so-called "dirty areas" near the net, and he hasn't been there enough for Tortorella's liking.
He was there in the wee hours Thursdaymorning, though, to deposit Brad Richards' quick pass and end a classic in the Rangers' favor.
"It's a game of will," Gaborik said after the game. "It was all in our heads."
Perhaps this goal will get Gaborik into the right frame of mind. He needs it and the Rangers need him, even if he's not one of the hard hat-wearing non-stars of the team.