EL SEGUNDO – His career was sparkled by goal bursts, littered with coach conflict.
Defensemen couldn’t catch him. Injuries did. He skated much faster than he healed. He disposed of agents like dysfunctional sticks.
In March, the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that hungered for its first playoff season, felt they could do without the 15th-leading active scorer in the NHL, and his salary.
That is how the Kings wound up with Marian Gaborik, the collector’s edition.
Gaborik has eight goals in the playoffs, one more than anyone else in the NHL. He has five of the 11 the Kings have scored in five games against the Ducks.
He tied and then won Game 1 in Anaheim, a game the Ducks regret even more poignantly now that they lead this second-round series 3-2, with Game 6 Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
He also scored twice in Monday night’s Game 5, a 4-3 victory by the Ducks that was once 4-1.
But Gaborik isn’t sniping or sprinting to these goals, the way he got 42 and 41 for the Rangers, and 42 for Minnesota.
He ambushed the Ducks with his burst in the first minute of Game 2, but the other goals have come at crease level. He even scored a power-play goal on John Gibson and then deflected Dustin Brown’s backhander for the goal that cut the lead to 4-3.
Is Gaborik getting weary of hearing people compare Gibson to Dryden, Roy and assorted X-Men?
“Kind of, yeah,” he said, grinning.
“We know Gibson is a good goaltender,” Drew Doughty said, “but I’ll take Quickie (Jonathan Quick) any day.”
He’ll take Gaborik, too.
“He looks like the same old Gabby to me,” said Andrew Brunette, Gaborik’s longtime teammate in Minnesota and now involved in player development for the Wild.
“He was a game-changer for us. He had such a quick release on his shot. We were a pretty good counter-punch team, and he could change the momentum in a short period of time.”
Despite Gaborik, the Ducks are leading the series because of organizational depth.