SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- When Henrik Lundqvist has one of his rare off nights or gives up the occasional bad goal, the New York Rangers always say their world-class goalie is the least of their concerns and worrying about a bounce-back effort from him is wasted energy.
That narrative switched to New York defenseman Dan Girardi on Thursday, when center Derek Stepan, left wing Carl Hagelin and defenseman Ryan McDonagh sat in front of the media at the Rangers' beachfront hotel.
Girardi's defensive-zone turnover directly led to Justin Williams' game-winning goal Wednesday that gave the Los Angeles Kings a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center.
Game 2 is Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
"Dan is a huge part of our hockey club," Stepan said. "I know that he's probably moved way past it and he's getting himself ready to play the next game. We've all been there. If there's a professional that can move away from it, it is Dan."
The defining play of Game 1 started with Girardi whiffing on a clearing attempt, falling to his knees, and then erroneously trying to send the puck up the wall. It was intercepted by Kings center Mike Richards, who found Williams wide-open in the slot.
Since Girardi had the puck and he usually is so sure-handed with it, McDonagh and forwards Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello already had started to head up the ice, turning their backs to the play. They didn't have time to recover after the turnover. Neither did Girardi.
Williams wasted no time depositing a shot into the top corner of the net over Lundqvist's blocker to set off a celebration at Staples Center.
"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," McDonagh said. "I was one of those guys that left the zone, anticipating a play that we were going to get it out. But at that point in the game we just need to help him and be supportive and be close there in case it happens, be 100 percent on our plays before we know what happens."
McDonagh can sympathize with Girardi, not only as his defense partner but as someone who knows firsthand how a gaffe can lead directly to an overtime loss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last year, McDonagh was guilty of shooting the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty at 7:09 of overtime. Mike Green scored a power-play goal 51 seconds later to give the Washington Capitals a 1-0 win and a 2-0 lead in the series.
The Rangers came back to win that series in seven games.
"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," McDonagh said of Girardi.
To be clear about what happened and of Girardi's state of mind, McDonagh spoke to his defense partner about the play immediately after the game when they were sitting next to each other in the dressing room before the media was allowed in.
"That's how we work through things as a group," McDonagh said. "Me and him are a pretty talkative pairing. No matter what happens, bad play, good play, we're talking about it, trying to improve, trying to make sure we're on the same page as much as possible.
"If it was flip-flopped and it was me, he would have [come] to me and asked me, 'What could we have done differently? What could we have done better?' That's the beauty of our pairing and the beauty of him too. He doesn't soak in the wounds, think about the what-ifs. He just tries to correct it, see what he can do better, and we're there supporting him."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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