Message sent: Tortorella benches Gaborik

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers’ power play has not been jelling, but that seems to be the least of this team’s worries at this point.

Right winger Marian Gaborik hasn’t scored in his last eight games -- and it’s gotten to the point where he’s become non-existent.

Midway through the second period on Sunday night, head coach John Tortorella -- wanting to send a message to his Slovakian Sniper -- benched Gaborik, sitting him after just five shifts. The 28-year-old played just 2 minutes, 25 seconds in the middle stanza and ended up logging a mere 12 minutes, 45 seconds of ice-time for the game -- well below his season average of 19:06.

“It’s just we need production. I’ll leave it at that,” Tortorella said after Gaborik took just two shots and was a minus-1 in the Rangers’ 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden. “We need production from him. We’ve got guys in there grinding their asses off and developing scoring chances. We need some of our skill guys to score a goal for us.”

Even though Tortorella was referring to skill “guys,” there was only one skill “guy” that became the storyline -- and his name was Marian Gaborik. Despite playing with everyone from Derek Stepan to Brandon Dubinsky to newly-acquired Wojtek Wolski, Gaborik still hasn’t found the back of the net since New Year’s Day when he buried his 11th of the season against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Since then, he’s taken 26 shots -- with nothing to show for it.

“Obviously I haven’t produced much lately,” said Gaborik, who once went 14 games without a goal in 2003-04. “Obviously in these type of games where it’s a big game ... but I’m not giving up. I’ve just gotta work hard and work harder and just try to get out of it. That’s the bottom line.”

The bottom line for the Rangers is that Gaborik needs to get it going and start looking like the 42-goal scorer he was last season. Otherwise, they may eventually find themselves out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

There’s only so many times that all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist can stand on his head and deliver victories for the Broadway Blueshirts by his lonesome. The King needs help. And that help needs to come from Gaborik, the superstar the Rangers are paying $7.5 million to consistently carry their offense.

But he hasn’t. That’s why the Rangers rank 15th in the NHL in goals per game (2.76).

Still, Gaborik, who was in a similar situation last season when he was benched during a road game against the Atlanta Thrashers, doesn’t want to start pressing -- if he hasn’t already.

He can’t afford to.

“You wanna get going,” Gaborik said. “And I’m trying not to think about I gotta score, I gotta score. I just try to think when I go out there just do my job defensively and then just create something offensively. That’s what I gotta do. I just have to shoot. Lately I’ve been hitting posts here and there. The bottom line is I’ve got to play harder and hopefully things will turn around.”

The bottom line is they need to. And fast.