Marian Gaborik is known for many things, but not for his prowess in the shootout.
Coach John Tortorella ignored Gaborik's woeful career record -- 2 for 19 -- and with the game on the line, decided to use him anyway.
"He's been our best player," Tortorella said.
Tortorella's gut decision to reward his most consistent forward paid off in the team's 2-1 win over Anaheim at Madison Square Garden Thursday. Gaborik scored the game-winner with a deft move to freeze Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller and beat him with a beautiful backhander.
Shootout specialist Erik Christensen also beat Hiller to lead off the skills competition and Henrik Lundqvist stopped all but Teemu Selanne to hang on for his first home win of the season.
"I feel good to have that chance," Gaborik said. "I haven't had a lot of opportunities to go in the shootout because, I guess, my record, but I'm happy he put me out there and I guess it worked out well for us."
Gaborik said he asked Christensen for advice on Hiller -- the two played together in Anaheim -- and was told Hiller prefers to play pretty deep in his net. But Hiller chose to challenge Gaborik, who deked and then slipped the puck around his right skate for the deciding goal.
"Before the shootout I tried to make up my mind, but he was kind of challenging me a bit so I tried to deke," Gaborik said.
Picking up a primary assist on Woywitka's first-period goal, Gaborik is now tied with center Brad Richards for the team lead in scoring with five goals and four assists. He finished Thursday's game with a team-high seven shots.
The decision to place the game on Gaborik's stick was meant as an endorsement of his winger's play, Tortorella said.
"He's ready to take the next step," Tortorella said. "I hope it helps him, because he's been our most consistent player offensively and I'm glad for him it worked out."