He played that role perfectly in Game 3 of his team's Eastern Conference First Round series against the Philadelphia Flyers, blocking a team-high five shots. But he also swung the momentum offensively, scoring a goal and assisting on another as the Rangers won 4-1 Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Game 4 is Friday at Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET, RDS, TSN, CNBC, MSG, CSN-PH).
"That's playoffs," fellow defenseman Marc Staal said. "You need different guys on different nights to come up and score goals for you. It was a big-time shot and a big momentum swing for us."
Martin St. Louis also had a goal and an assist and Derek Stepan and Daniel Carcillo scored for the Rangers. However, Girardi's rising slap shot over the left shoulder of Flyers goalie Ray Emery at 5:17 of the second period stole the momentum after the Flyers had cut into the Rangers' 2-0 lead with a goal late in the first.
"I came off the bench for a change," Girardi said. "I let [Brad Richards] know we had time and I was open and he made a great pass. I shot as hard as I could at the short side and luckily it went in."
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 31 saves, said Girardi's goal was the difference.
"I think that goal was extremely important for the game," he said. "That's a big difference. It definitely gave us some confidence. Even though they kept coming pretty hard, especially in the second period, having that extra goal helped a lot I think for our group."
After Girardi supplied the offense, he was part of a penalty-killing unit that shut down the Flyers on back-to-back chances late in the second.
With Carcillo in the box for roughing at 11:37, the Rangers held the Flyers without a shot on goal and blocked four of their attempts. And then with Derek Dorsett off for roughing at 16:02, the Flyers had two shots but the Rangers blocked four other attempts.
"They were definitely two important penalty-killings," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "... We had some big blocked shots at the right time from our penalty-killing unit. That's what you need to be successful. They came at us, they had a good push, but we were able to respond the right way."
The Rangers finished the game with 28 blocked shots, including nine during Philadelphia's five power plays -- leaving the Flyers frustrated and looking for answers.
"Everything has to happen quicker," Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "We have to get the puck through somehow. If that means moving the puck sideways or whatever. ... I'm sure we're going to watch some tape and find a way to try and get some pucks through."
The Flyers also will watch tape of their power play. They were 25th in the League at home on the power play in the regular season and went 0-for-5 with four shots Tuesday.
"It's too predictable what we're doing with [Claude] Giroux and Timonen," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "I think we've got to move it around more. We've got to get it in [Jakub] Voracek's hands more. There's different things we can do. We'll make some adjustments. We had a lot of [offensive] zone time with the puck ... but we've got to get it to the net and we didn't. That's the biggest problem. If you don't get it to the net, you're not going to score."
The Rangers went ahead 2-0 on first-period goals by Stepan and St. Louis, but the Flyers got back into the game when Mark Streit scored his first of the postseason with 2:42 remaining in the period. Voracek got the puck into the right side of the New York zone with speed, pulled up in the right circle and sent the puck across to a pinching Streit, who tipped it past Lundqvist.
The Flyers had been in a similar situation in Game 2, trailing 2-0 early before a goal in the late stages of the first got them rolling to a 4-2 victory.
"When we scored the first two there and got a great start and then they got the first one there, my first thought was 'let's not do this again,'" Lundqvist said.
Instead Girardi's goal and a strong penalty kill kept the Rangers ahead.
The Rangers killed off another Flyers power play when Carcillo was sent off for hooking at 8:36 of the third, and then Carcillo stepped out of the penalty box and scored when he got a step on Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald and slipped a Brian Boyle pass between Emery's pads at 10:53.
That ended Emery's night after he stopped 16 of 20 shots. He was replaced by Steve Mason for the final 7:15 of the game. In his first game since sustaining an upper-body injury April 12, Mason stopped all three shots he faced.
"It's good to get back out there," Mason said. "I haven't played in I guess almost two weeks or so and it was nice to get my feet wet again. I look forward to maybe the next game."
Berube said he hadn't decided which goalie he would use in Game 4.
"We'll look at it," he said. "We got a couple days here to figure it out, get some practice time and then I'll make a decision."
The Rangers weren't concerned with which goalie they might face Friday. Their focus is continuing to do the things that made them successful at both ends of the ice in Game 3.
"They're not a team that's going to give up and roll over," Girardi said. "They kept coming, kept shooting. We know they're not going to give up. ... We're going to expect a big effort from them in Game 4."
Giroux said that's what he and his teammates plan on doing.
"We'll be ready for Game 4," he said. "We're going to tie up this series and go back to New York. We just have to stay confident. ... We're going to come off even better in Game 4."
|Derek Stepan (2) ASST: Rick Nash (3), Martin St. Louis (3)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Martin St. Louis (2) ASST: Dan Girardi (1), Rick Nash (4)|
2 - 0 NYR
|Mark Streit (1) ASST: Jakub Voracek (1), Claude Giroux (2)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Dan Girardi (1) ASST: Brad Richards (3), Carl Hagelin (1)|
3 - 1 NYR
|Daniel Carcillo (1) ASST: Brian Boyle (1)|
4 - 1 NYR
|Power Play %||16.8%||23.4%|
|% on Road||17.2%||18.6%|
|% at Home||16.4%||28.0%|
|Wayne Simmonds Hi-sticking against Derek Dorsett|
|Benoit Pouliot Cross checking against Andrew MacDonald|
|Scott Hartnell Boarding against Benoit Pouliot|
|Kimmo Timonen Delay of game|
|Benoit Pouliot Holding against Andrew MacDonald|
|Daniel Carcillo Roughing against Claude Giroux|
|Jakub Voracek Roughing against Carl Hagelin|
|Carl Hagelin Roughing against Jakub Voracek|
|Derek Dorsett Charging against Claude Giroux|
|Daniel Carcillo Hooking against Matt Read|
|Wayne Simmonds Roughing against Mats Zuccarello|