Rangers Have Girardi's Back After Game One

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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The Rangers lost Game One of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night at the Staples Center in a purely frustrating and painful manner. A bouncing puck in their end of the ice eluded Dan Girardi early in overtime, and when he finally corralled it after dropping to a knee, his clearing pass was intercepted by Kings center Mike Richards as several of Girardi's teammates had already broken out of their zone. One quick pass from Richards to Justin Williams set up an open Williams for the game-winner past Henrik Lundqvist, and a 3-2 overtime defeat for the Rangers to chew on Thursday.

If anyone had any question about where Girardi's teammates stood following the game-deciding events in Game One, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, and Carl Hagelin made sure that it was known they--and the entire team--were standing right behind the veteran defenseman when they met with reporters at the team's hotel during an off day in the Final schedule on Thursday.

"Stuff like that is going to happen in a hockey game," stated Hagelin, who scored one of the Rangers' two goals Wednesday. "I think what we've been doing all year is coming back even stronger the game after when we lose. 'G' is a big part of this team and a great leader, and he plays a lot of heavy minutes for us, and it's just unfortunate what happened. He's going to bounce back next game."

McDonagh, Girardi's defense partner, said that he and No. 5 sat in the dressing room after the game and discussed what had taken place--with McDonagh taing partial blame for perhaps having left the defensive zone too early, not figuring that the puck would be bouncing and would elude Girardi.

"I talked to him about the play right away," shared McDonagh, who had an assist and played 31:12 in Game One. "That's how we work through things as a group. Me and him are a pretty talkative pairing. No matter what happens--good play, bad play--we are talking about it and try and make sure we're on the same page. That's the beauty of him--he doesn't soak in the wounds, so to speak, and think about the what-ifs. He just tries to correct it and be better. We're all there to support him."

Like McDonagh, Girardi was a rock on the Rangers blue line much of the night. He played 27:25 and led the team with seven hits. It was just another typically quietly effective performance by Girardi until a bad bounce or two landed him in the spotlight of a game-deciding play in overtime.

"You never want to make a mistake, and that goes for every single guy on our team," stated Stepan. "Dan is a huge part of our hockey club; but I know he has probably moved way past it and is getting himself ready to play the next game. We've all been there, and it's never fun, but this is a guy that's professional. If anyone can move on from it, it's him."

McDonagh said he could relate to the position Girardi was in Wednesday night.

"Bouncing pucks happens to everybody--forwards, defensemen--and as a defensemen you're probably one of the last two guys back so it can be exposed heavily and can look like a terrible mistake," explained McDonagh. "When you're back there you do your best to get a hold of that thing, and the more it gets out of control it can become an unfortunate play, especially at that point of the game."

Following Thursday's off day, the Rangers will return to practice on Friday, and then will play Game Two of the Stanley Cup Final Saturday at 4:00 local time at the Staples Center, looking to even the series before returning home to play in front of The Garden faithful Monday night in Game Three.