-- It was the type of play in a crucial situation that the Rangers expected from Marian Gaborik
when they brought him to New York this offseason.
After coughing up a two-goal lead late in the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers
on Friday night, the Rangers were on the cusp of watching their season go down the drain on home ice. Jubilation at Madison Square Garden was quickly turning into apprehension.
That's when Gaborik showed why he was worth the five-year, $37.5 million contract he signed in July.
With Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger
trying to control a bouncing puck near his blue line, Gaborik closed like a shark circling its dinner. Pronger clumsily tried to send the puck across the rink to Matt Carle
, but Gaborik intercepted the weak pass, skated in alone on goaltender Brian Boucher
, and flipped a wrist shot that clipped the top corner of the net and sent the Rangers to a season-saving 4-3 victory.
"It bounced over Pronger's stick, I got it and tried to skate while it was still bouncing," Gaborik explained. "I just tried to shoot it and got a lucky bounce off (Carle's) stick and it went over Boucher's glove. It was a big goal for us."
Calling that goal big is an understatement on par with saying the Grand Canyon is a hole in the ground. There's no telling what could've happened if Gaborik didn't score that goal -- his 42nd of the season.
But big goals from Gaborik have become commonplace for the Rangers this season.
"He's been our guy all year long to get us big goals," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal
said. "He played really well for us and he's been doing that all year long, getting big goals for us."
Gaborik also showed during the game that he's just as gifted at passing as he is at scoring.
With the Rangers leading 2-1 early in the second period, Gaborik displayed his world-class speed. He burned down the right wing around Carle and behind the net. But instead of continuing to the other side of the net, he slid a backhand pass to the near post for Brandon Dubinsky
, who buried the beautiful feed over an out-of-position Boucher.
"It's kind of a play we've been trying to find all year long," Dubinsky said of the play that set up his 20th goal of the season, a career high. "I kind of had an inclination that he was going to do it, so that's why I went to that side of the post.
"I think most people would stay on the far side and wait for him to come around. But that's something he likes to do and I was lucky enough to get there and he made a great play and I found a way to put it in the net."
Thanks to Gaborik's effort -- both Friday and throughout the season -- the Rangers are now staring at what will likely be a play-in game Sunday at Wachovia Center against the Flyers.
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter at @DLozoNHL