LOS ANGELES - Dan Girardi had the hardest job of anyone in the Staples Center Wednesday night. He was the one who had to try to forget the most painfully memorable play for the Rangers.
His coach attributed it to a bad bounce, the puck just eluding the stick of his defense-first defenseman. But if the Rangers do not bounce back from losing Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, 3-2, in overtime, Girardi's failure to get the puck out of the zone will haunt him and his team.
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"You've got to have a short-term memory. It's a tough play," he said. "There's nothing I can do about it right now -- maybe go higher next time, or go the corner and eat it. I'm not going to dwell on it, I'm just going to forget about it and go on."
Game 2 cannot come soon enough for the former All-Star on whom the Rangers put a lot of faith and defensive responsibility. He will look forward more than anyone to Saturday night, after the giveaway that suddenly ended a breathtaking, back-and-forth opener.
"The play happened so quick," he said. "I see guys breaking to the middle, I try to pass it and it jumps over my stick. They've got three guys in our zone. I've got to try to find a way to get it up and out of our zone."
What happened was that the puck took a hop. Girardi tried to play it off the boards, but he couldn't get enough on it to put it past Mike Richards, who fed Justin Williams, who has become known as Mr. Game 7 among the Kings for his performances at the most tense times.
"I'm thinking just get it to the wall, but the guy was there and made a smart play to the middle. You can't give Williams a shot like that, he's pretty clutch in the playoffs," Girardi said.
"The puck bounced over Dan's stick. Not sure what he could do there," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "It was an unlucky bounce on our part, a fortunate bounce on their part.
"Couldn't put the handle on it. I mean it was a bang-bang play. We were going north/south. We thought the puck was moving."
The night went totally south at 4:36 of overtime. The Rangers know they have recovered from tough beginnings before -- their regular season, for starters, and their second-round series against the Penguins.
All they could do was look ahead: one guy in particular. "For the most part we had a pretty solid game," Girardi said, having played 27 minutes, 25 seconds. "I know in the third, we weren't that great. We know if we play a 60-minute game we've got a good chance to get Game 2 and be even going back home."