The NHL's "second season," as Rangers coach John Tortorella describes the playoffs, is akin to hitting the refresh button.

That goes both for his team, which qualified with an assist from Tampa Bay, and for individual players who have been unable to produce consistently or remain in the lineup over the past several weeks.

No Ranger qualifies under that heading more than first-line winger Marian Gaborik, whose goal production dropped nearly in half from 42 goals last season to 22 this year over 62 appearances. And there would be no bigger boost in the opening round against top-seeded Washington than Gaborik offsetting months of inconsistent play with a playoff performance commensurate with his $7.5 annual salary.

"For a lot of players that feel they've struggled a little bit, or even if they have played well, you wipe the slate clean here," Tortorella said when asked about Gaborik after practice Monday in Greenburgh. "I hope Gabby realizes the slate is clean. So let's get to work."

As he departed the Garden following Saturday's victory over the Devils, Henrik Lundqvist admitted he still didn't have "much hope" that the Rangers' season would continue. But most of the close-knit team watched together as Carolina was eliminated by the Lightning later that night, finally giving the Blueshirts the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.