The first is a return to home ice. Or as Kings coach Darryl Sutter deadpanned on Monday before Game 3: “I think the biggest concern would be that we're coming into Madison Square Garden and playing the New York Rangers. Makes sense. It's logical.”
The Rangers have been a stouter defensive team on home ice, with Henrik Lundqvist sporting a 2.00 GAA in 10 home games and a 2.75 GAA on the road in 12 games. Their crowds have been raucous. Monday night should be no exception. “It’s good to get the energy of a home crowd that’s been waiting [for a Stanley Cup Final] for 20 years,” said defenseman Dan Girardi.
The other bit of hope for the Rangers is the continuing belief that they’re a few correctable mistakes and one friendly bounce away from being right back in this series. They’ve taken, and blown, 2-0 leads in the first period of both games. They lost in overtime in both as well.
“I think the key is to realize that we’re close and you don’t have to change that much. The difference has been a bounce here or a deflection. We’re doing a lot of good things, but it hasn’t been enough so we need to raise it a little bit,” said goalie Henrik Lundqvist. “But it’s important that you don’t try too hard and try too many different things. We need to stick together here and do it together. We had stretches in both games where I think we played really well and created a lot of chances, enough chances to win the game.”
Three of the Kings five goals in their Game 2 victory came off of Rangers turnovers, including Jarret Stoll’s tally that sparked their rally.
“We got to clean up some things,” said forward Brian Boyle. "We watched a little bit of tape and there's just a few things we need to clean up, I think, in our end a little bit. They don't need much in terms of an opportunity to pounce on you and get their forecheck going, so we need to limit that by taking care of the puck as best we can."
Both teams know the margin for error in these one-goal, overtime games is miniscule. But for the Rangers, the margin is even slimmer, knowing that a Game 3 loss could mean a rather brief time before the Kings hoist their second Cup in three seasons.
“We have to hold serve, and we know that,” said Coach Alain Vigneault. “But we know our game and we know the way to play. When we do that, we're a good team.
“I mean, it's been nine periods of real good hockey so far. Could have gone one way or the other. They're up 2-0. Give them full credit. We're going to try to make this a series tonight.”