Marian Gaborik put an exclamation point on the 2012 NHL All Star weekend for the four Rangers' particpants by scoring a Hat Trick---including a pair of goals against Blueshirts teammate Henrik Lundqvist---and capturing Most Valuable Player honors in Sunday's All Star Game, which was won by Gaborik's Team Chara in a 12-9 decision over the John Tortorella-coached Team Alfredsson.
Gaborik, who had been chirping good-naturedly all weekend long about he has "owned" Lundqvist over the course of his career and would do so again on Sunday, needed just four minutes and 34 seconds to prove his point. The Slovak sniper scored on an odd-man rush off a pretty pass from Pavel Datsyuk for the game-opening goal against his friend and Rangers teammate Lundqvist.
Following the goal, as Lundqvist slumped in his net---likely knowing he would never live down this moment, Gaborik aimed his stick like a rifle towards Lundqvist's net, immitating Artem Anisimov's much-discussed celebration against Tampa Bay earlier in the season.
"I was trying to get into his mind the entire weekend," laughed Gaborik after the game. "I was just fortunate to be lucky against him (today). I think he's one of the best, if not THE best, goalie in the game."
As for the celebration, Gaborik explained, "I was thinking about it before the game if I score on Henrik. I wouldn't do it to any other (goalie), but I wanted to do it against Henrik to get a celebration there."
Lundqvist accepted Gaborik's celebration in a proper good-natured way, just as the two shared witty barbs through Twitter the past few days once it was set they'd play on opposing teams Sunday.
"He got me, what can I say?," Lundqvist said with a smile in the post-game locker room. "I only saw the end of his 'Anisimov'. I was too angry having allowed that goal to him. But give him credit, Gaby had a great day today and I am really happy for him. It was a really fun weekend here in Ottawa."
Lundqvist surrendered two more goals to Team Chara through his 20 minutes of work, including another score by Gaborik into a gaping net off a three-on-one opportunity in which Marian Hossa made a simply gorgeous pass. Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin also beat Lundqvist on an odd-man opportunity. In all Lundqvist stopped nine of 12 shots he faced in the defensively-challenged All Star Game.
Gaborik completed his hat trick just 1:23 into the second period when he slipped the puck into the wide-open cage after goaltender Jonathan Quick was pulled way out of position by Hossa, who once again assisted on a Gaborik goal. In his prior two All Star Games Gaborik had scored only one goal, and that one came in the 2008 contest in Atlanta.
Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, like Lundqvist, played for the losing Team Alfredsson squad. He earned an assist on his team's first goal when his wrist shot 10:36 into the opening period deflected off Jason Spezza and past goaltender Jimmy Howard. At first it appeared that Girardi had scored the goal, but it was immediately credited to Spezza of the hometown Senators.
"I wasn't going to question it and cause any problems," Girardi said with a laugh after the game. "I thought it might have been mine at first, but (Spezza) said in the celebration that the puck had hit him."
In a game that was devoid of almost any form of defense, it still should come as no surprise that Girardi recorded a blocked shot in his 15:20 worth of ice-time.
Rookie forward Carl Hagelin did not play in Sunday's actual All Star Game, but he made his presence felt over the weekend by winning the Fastest Skater event during the SuperSkills competition.
So a fun and rewarding weekend for the Rangers---Lundqvist was the assistant captain for Team Alfredsson, Hagelin won the Fastest Skater title, Girardi played in his first NHL All Star Game, and Gaborik scored three goals and won game MVP honors Sunday---came to a close early Sunday evening as the Blueshirts contingent flew back to New York where the team will reconvene for practice Monday afternoon.
Now the true stretch drive kicks in as the Rangers look to hold on to the top spot in the Eastern Conference in the weeks and months ahead.
Share your thoughts below on Sunday's All Star Game and all of the great Rangers memories produced this weekend.