GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Lesson learned, says Marian Gaborik.
"It was what it was, obviously," the Rangers' 41-goal scorer said Friday after practice. "I have to do a better job there on their second goal."
Gaborik is referring to his inability to clear the puck out of the Rangers' zone with 1:58 to go in the second period of Game 2 Wednesday. He couldn't do it, so Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador was able to keep the puck in and seven seconds later Ryan Carter scored the game-tying goal on a deflection from in front of Henrik Lundqvist.
Gaborik was on the bench when David Clarkson's deflection beat Lundqvist early in the third period for what turned into the winning goal in the Devils' 3-2 victory to tie the Eastern Conference Finals at 1-1. In fact, Gaborik didn't return to the game until there was nine minutes left to go in the third period.
He was benched by coach John Tortorella.
"I don't want to talk about it," Gaborik said. "It happened. I'm going to focus on (Saturday's) game, so is everybody else. We need to be better. I need to be better. That's the bottom line."
The Rangers have no doubt that Gaborik will, indeed, be better in Game 3 Saturday (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
"Oh, he'll bounce back," center Brad Richards said. "He's been to the conference finals in the West before. He knows what those plays mean. We've all gone through it. That's a coaching decision, not a players' decision, but we expect him to have a great game and he wants to do that. He's one of the most important players in our lineup here in the Eastern Conference Finals."
The optics of it may have appeared odd considering the Rangers were down a goal 2:31 into the third period and Gaborik, their best goal scorer, was tied to the bench, a victim stuck in Tortorella's doghouse. However, it wasn't all that surprising to the guys wearing blue because that's the way it has been all season long with Tortorella.
Play hard and play his way or don't play at all has been the message delivered to plenty of players long before Tortorella took Gaborik to school on Wednesday.
"Every player has the same accountability," Richards said. "He'll be fine. He takes that stuff to heart and we expect he'll be one of the better players (Saturday). That's the way it's been in this locker room all year."
"That's something that happens here," added Mike Rupp. "It doesn't matter who you are, there is a certain way we have to play and as a team we haven't really played that well in doing those things. It doesn't say much to anybody else because it's been like that. We're used to it."
Still, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal noted that the Gaborik benching was a message heard loud and clear throughout the dressing room.
"Obviously that situation is between Gabby and Torts, but everyone knows how we have to play," he said. "You have to make sure you're at the top of your game or else you'll be held accountable."
Gaborik was. He is ready to move past it.
"I've been in that situation before. We all learn," he said. "I just have to learn from it and make sure I do a better job. That goes for everybody."
Gaborik, though, was quick to say it's not just in the defensive zone where he and his teammates have to be better. While he was speaking more about the play on the walls all around the ice, the leading goal scorer on this team in the regular season has only four goals in 16 playoff games this spring and he knows that's not good enough.
Gaborik, who is pointless through two games in the conference finals, feels a bit snakebit, especially considering his best chance of the series was stopped by an unbelievable leg save by Brodeur 2:01 into the second period. He walked in on Brodeur, who was lying on the ice, flat on his stomach, and tried to chip it high into the net. Brodeur somehow managed to up his legs to make a highlight-reel save.
"Yeah, I mean, you know, definitely you want to put that one in, but you can't go back," Gaborik said. "You just have to try again and try again."
Tortorella doesn't think Gaborik's inability to put that puck past Brodeur had anything to do with his inability to clear the puck out of the zone 16 minutes later. Tortorella said plays like that shouldn't, can't, and don't stick in a player's mind in the playoffs.
"I think that's the greatest thing about these games in the playoffs is handling the surges, handling situations that don't go your way," he said. "I think the teams that are still involved in this handle those types of things very well or they wouldn't be here. So, I don't look at it that way at all. I speak for our group. I think our group handles the surges and situations that happen in games, whether it be within the team or an individual, very well, or we wouldn't still be playing."
Gaborik will most definitely be playing in Game 3. Heck, he might even be in the starting lineup with linemates Richards and Carl Hagelin.
He's moved on. He said he'll be better for it. Lesson learned.
"He'll be back," Richards said.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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