Dan Girardi, New York Rangers
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

New York Rangers great Dan Girardi officially calls it a career. Today, ESNY counts down his five best plays on Broadway.

Friday morning, former New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi announced his retirement. Girardi played 13 seasons in the NHL, 11 with the Blueshirts. The general consensus among Ranger fans seems to be this: you either could not stand Girardi or he was one of your favorites.

Many fans did not like him because he experienced a big decline towards the end of his stint in New York and his contract handicapped the team. Maybe, you loved him because he was an undrafted free agent who wore his heart on his sleeve, was a great shot blocker and left it all out on the ice. It makes sense to feel either one of those ways towards Girardi.

However, it’s important to focus on Girardi’s best. Things did not end ideally for him in New York, but there are plenty of bright spots in his tenure as a Blueshirt. Here are Dan Girardi’s top five moments as a New York Rangers hard-nosed defenseman.

5. Assisting on Gaborik goal in OT, ECSF Game 3 2012

A long night’s journey into day. The Rangers went into D.C. tied in the Eastern Conference Semifinals at one game apiece with the Washington Capitals. It was a defensive showdown between both teams. The score was 1-1 and it took three overtimes to end it. Having a big hand in the winning goal was Girardi.

A simple play, Girardi corralled a wide shot that went into the corner, back behind the net for Brad Richards to pass to Marian Gaborik in front to finally send everyone home as the Rangers won the game 2-1. A smart pinch from the defenseman to keep the puck in the Caps zone. It remains etched in time as a simple play that helped the Rangers earn a victory in a series that they won in seven games.

4. OT goal against the Islanders, 2013

This is the only play on this list that is not in a playoff game. However, it sure felt like a postseason atmosphere. Both the Rangers and their hated rivals, the New York Islanders, were battling for a playoff spot at this time. It set the stage for one of Girardi’s signature Ranger moments.

Neither team could break through on the scoresheet in the first 60 minutes, so it took a 4v4 overtime to get it settled. Low and behold, in a game in which defense stood tall, it was the defenseman, Girardi, who sent everyone home with the game-winner. Credit Derick Brassard for making the beautiful backhand pass, but Girardi could not have placed this shot any better. One of the more memorable goals of this season, Girardi came through when the Rangers needed him to.

3. Game-winner against Ottawa, ECQF Game 7 2012

Mostly known for his defense, Girardi was not known for his point production. What he lacked in the scoring summary, he made up in his physicality and defensive presence. Every once in awhile, though, Girardi found the back of the net. One of those times was in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

It was a hard-fought series between the Blueshirts and the Ottawa Senators. New York grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second period, but they needed more. About halfway through the second, Girardi was left alone in the slot for Brandon Dubinsky to dish him a pass he one-timed by Craig Anderson to give the Rangers a two-goal lead. That goal proved to be crucial, as the Sens would get one goal closer, but that was it as the Rangers won the game 2-1 and advanced to the next round.

2. Performance and shot block against the Pens, ECSF Game 7 2014

One of the most memorable series not just in recent history, but all of Ranger history. Down 3-1 in the series to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers rallied back to win the series in seven games. There were plenty of key contributors to this comeback. Martin St. Louis caught fire following the death of his mother, Henrik Lundqvist stood on his head, and Girardi was certainly no exception.

Girardi led the Rangers in ice-time in this game with 23:51. He also tied for second in hits with four, but had only two blocked shots. However, perhaps his most important play came with just over seven minutes gone by in the third.

All that was standing between Lundqvist and a point-blank shot by James Neal was Girardi. Like he did many times in his career, Girardi held his ground and blocked the shot, preserving the lead. Girardi blocked 1,954 shots in his career, the most since the NHL started recording the stat in the 2005-06 season. However, this one might have been his most important block.

1. Assisting Stepan's OT Winner, ECSF Game 7 2015

Another New York comeback from 3-1 in the series. Arguably the most memorable goal in recent history for the Blueshirts. Derek Stepan‘s OT goal against the Washington Capitals sent the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Finals. Stepan might have all the glory for that goal, but he does not find the back of the net without Girardi.

After the Blueshirts won the faceoff, Keith Yandle dished the pass to Girardi, who sent a one-timer rocketing towards Braden Holtby. The Caps netminder couldn’t handle Girardi’s shot, leaving a juicy rebound for Stepan and the rest is history. Any hockey coach will tell you, if you throw the puck on net, good things will happen. It certainly did here, as Girardi got the primary assist on the most important goal in Rangers recent history. Stepan has more of the fame for cashing in, but he has Girardi to thank for taking the slapshot that set him up for it in the first place.

Who would knew that a kid that the Rangers signed undrafted out of the Ontario Hockey League would make it this far? Dan Girardi experienced many ups and downs in his career. However, even some of his most jaded critics can look back at moments like this and smile.

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