Will to win fuels Gaborik, Rangers

Like the game, New York Rangers forward Marian Gaborik’s playoff scoring slump extended to one, two then three overtimes.

Then came a quick pass from behind the net by Brad Richards and a one-timer past Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby as Gaborik ended both his eight-game goal-less streak and the longest game since 2008.

“It’s about will,” Gaborik said simply after Wednesday’s 2-1 victory that gave the Rangers the same edge in the best-of-seven second-round series.

If not his will, Gaborik’s patience certainly had been tested in Game 3 at Verizon Center, which ended early Thursday morning. He hit two posts, the latter in midway through triple-OT. Each were just inches from a goal, something Gaborik hadn’t had since Game 1 of the first round against Ottawa.

“I hope it gets Gabby going,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said of his 41-goal scorer from the regular season. “He’s a guy we need as we continue. This is just one game.”

It was nearly two in terms of minutes. Gaborik’s goal halted a game that had reached 114 minutes, 41 seconds — the longest Rangers game in 73 years. The game was the fifth-longest in Rangers history and the third-longest in Capitals history.

“When you get into that many hours of playing it becomes a mental game,” Tortorella said. “I felt as the game got longer and longer I felt that our team was at an advantage. I think we have a mentally tough group. … Just don’t give in. That’s the key. Just don’t give in.”

Especially if you’re a Rangers defenseman. Tortorella used five defensemen as the team’s sixth defenseman, Stu Bickel, had his last shift two minutes into the second period. Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh skated 53 minutes, 21 seconds, the most ice time a player has logged since Ryan Whitney skated 50:46 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008.

“He had a mental toughness about him,” Tortorella said of McDonagh. “We kept asking him, ‘Are you OK?’ He said he was fine. He wanted more.”

Not to be overlooked, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal played 49:30 — nearly eight minutes more than the most-used Caps player (Dennis Wideman).

“Physically, it’s tough,” Staal said. “You just run out of gas quicker. Ten or 15 seconds (into a shift), your legs just leave you again. You have to make sure you’re staying mentally sharp.”

Beyond the endurance aspect, the game was brutal in other ways. Like to the faces of Caps forward Mike Knuble and Rangers skaters Dan Girardi and Brian Boyle, who finished the game with either stitches or bandages holding jagged sections of skin together.

The teams combined for 105 hits and 81 blocked shots — not counting the one for which Boyle didn’t get credit. He blocked a would-be winner that was shot on an open net by teammate Mike Rupp in the second overtime.

“It happens on both sides,” Boyle said. “I was not happy about it, but you never know.”

Blocking a teammate’s game-winner with your backside is certainly easier to take when your team wins a marathon game.

“The impact is that we’re up a game,” Tortorella said. “They have to win three (games), we have to win two. Other than that we take tomorrow off, we practice and we get ready to play.”