WASHINGTON, D.C. - Critics used to call him “Maid Marian” because of the way he disappeared during the playoffs.
No, this time Marian Gaborik was front and centre for all to see, beating Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby at 14:41 of the third overtime period to give his New York Rangers a 2-1 victory in a game that started Wednesday and ended Thursday.
Gaborik’s goal gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal. Game 4 goes Saturday at the Verizon Center.
It was the first triple-overtime game in the NHL since 2008.
Just minutes before his winner, Gaborik hit the post to Holtby’s left. Good thing for the Rangers his aim was better the second time around.
The victory snapped a seven-game overtime losing streak for the Rangers, who outshot the Caps 49-46.
The Caps thought they had won it with five minutes remaining in the opening overtime frame when New York's Ryan McDonagh coughed up the puck deep in the Rangers end to Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who ripped a shot off the post.
Many in the building thought the puck had gone in including the guy operating the goal horn.
With all the hype and hoopla over Ovechkin’s ice time -- or lack thereof -- little attention was being paid to the fact that the Rangers needed to elevate their play from Game 2, a 3-2 loss at Madison Square Garden Monday that tied the series at 1-1.
Truth be told, the Rangers entered Game 3 having struggled throughout the series including their 3-1 win in Game 1, a victory in which they mustered just 14 shots on goal. If not for the wobbly play of the rookie Holtby between the pipes for the Caps, New York might not have escaped with the victory.
One Ranger in particular who needed to elevate his play was Gaborik, who, with the exception of two or three shifts Monday, was barely visible on the ice.
A year ago, Gaborik registered just two points in a five-game first-round exit at the hands of the Caps. He’s fared better in these playoffs, collecting five points in the first nine contests entering Game 3, but the majority of his damage was done in a first-round seven-game series win against the Ottawa Senators.
Much to the relief of the capacity crowd at the Verizon Center, the two teams came out on Wednesday producing an entertaining brand of hockey. It was a far cry from the eye-glazing snoozefest of Game 1 when the teams combined for just 32 shots.
Truth be told, Game 1 was hardly Holtby’s finest hour. Two of the pucks that beat him squeezed through the five hole, much to the frustration of the young goalie.
To his credit, Holtby’s strength throughout his young career has been his resilience. He showed that in the 3-2 Caps win in Game 2.
Consider this: Holtby has gone 25 outings without losing back-to-back games. For coach Dale Hunter, that stat is much more important than goals-against average or save percentage.
Holtby had little chance on the opening goal of Game 3, a power play marker by Rangers captain Ryan Callahan at 6:41 of the second period that gave the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Rangers defenceman Michael Del Zotto started the play with a shot from the point into the gaggle of bodies in front of the Caps net. The puck clunked off Washington's Matt Hendricks directly onto the stick of Callahan, who quickly drained it into the back of the net for his third goal of the playoffs.
The lead would not last long, however.
Less than five minutes later, Washington would tie the score at 1-1 on a magnificent effort by defenceman John Carlson, who picked up the puck at his own blueline and weaved his way deep into the Rangers end. When Rangers defenceman Marc Staal’s poke-check deflected the puck right back to Carlson, the young Caps defenceman ripped a shot into the far corner past Henrik Lundqvist to knot the score.
About two hours later, Gaborik would finally finish things off.