SANTA MONICA, Calif. - It can happen to anybody, and in fact it already has. It has happened to everyone at some point. That was the message Rangers teammates had Thursday for Dan Girardi, whose misplay in overtime Wednesday night led to the Kings' winning goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
In other words, on the off- day his teammates supported the defenseman, which is something they acknowledged they had not done on the ice during the deciding play.
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"In those situations, especially at that point of the game, we've got to understand that when a guy is in trouble, maybe it's not the right time to leave the zone," said Ryan McDonagh, his defense partner. "I was one of those guys that left the zone, anticipating a play that we were going to get it out."
After the game, Girardi handled the situation head-on, saying, "You've got to have a short-term memory." Of course, he knew that would be easier said than done, especially with two days between Games 1 and 2.
But the three players chosen to meet with the media Thursday -- McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin -- and coach Alain Vigneault all believed that Girardi can handle the heat as well as anyone can.
McDonagh said he and Girardi talked about it in the locker room right after Justin Williams scored. They would have done the same "if it was flip-flopped and it was me," McDonagh said, adding that there was a time when it was, in fact, him.
In Game 2 against the Capitals last year, McDonagh shot the puck over the glass in overtime, giving Washington the overtime power play that resulted in the only goal of the game.
Of Girardi, McDonagh said, "He's a guy that has been through so many ups and downs in his career, we know he's going to bounce back and be a huge part of our Game 2 here."
Vigneault said he had not spoken with his defenseman but that his assistant coaches have. On Wednesday night, the coach wrote it off to the bad bounce the puck initially took over Girardi's stick, before he fell to his knees and made a weak clearing attempt. "It was a bounce. It was a bounce that unfortunately didn't work out," Vigneault said yesterday. "He couldn't put the handle on it. Stuff like that happens. You've got to turn the page and move on."
The Rangers' locker room is filled with guys who have admiration for the undrafted defenseman who learned from his parents -- an assembly line worker and a nurse -- never to give up. He made it from the East Coast Hockey League to the 2012 NHL All-Star Game. At the time, coach John Tortorella, no dewy- eyed sentimentalist, said, "It restores my faith."
As usual, Girardi was a workhorse Wednesday (27 minutes, 25 seconds) as he tied Don Maloney for second-most playoff games as a Ranger (85, behind only Walt Tkaczuk's 93).
"He doesn't soak in the wounds, so to speak, think about the what-ifs," McDonagh said.
Stepan added, "We've all been there. If there's a professional that can move away from it, it is Dan."