NEW YORK – Do the New York Rangers have what it takes to rally from an 0-3 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final?
“We’ll see,” said defenseman Ryan McDonagh, after their 3-0 loss in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night. “We’ve rallied off wins before. We’re going to come out with everything we got. Nothing to save it for now.”
The deflation in the Rangers’ dressing room after the Game 3 loss was as palpable as the silence that fell on the Madison Square Garden crowd after each Kings goal. Their coach, Alain Vigneault, said his team needed to “hold serve” on home ice to overcome the Kings’ 2-0 series lead.
Instead, they’re facing elimination on Wednesday night in Game 4.
“Better question,” requested goalie Henrik Lundqvist after being asked.
"I'm just extremely disappointed that we're in this hole,” he said, after another, better question. “We're even talking about it after every game, we're playing really well, but in the end it's about finding ways to win; it's not about playing great, it's about winning. We have to regroup, it's not over.”
It’s not, but it’s also not how the Rangers ever thought this series would end up after three games.
“Our team, going into the Stanley Cup Final, wasn’t expecting to be down 3-0 in the first three games of the series,” said defenseman Dan Girardi, a minus-2 in each of the last two games. “We’re a very confident team. We know what we can do. Obviously other than tonight, we held the lead in the first two games in LA. But we couldn’t find that one goal tonight. We just have to regroup. Win one game.”
For the third straight game, the Rangers had the better of play for the majority of the game, winning the possession battle when the game was close. They earned more power play time (11:58) than the Kings (6:57). They had more shots than the Kings, 32-15.
What they didn’t have, for the first time in the series, was the lead after the first period, as Jeff Carter scored a heartbreaker of a goal with 0.7 seconds left in the frame for the Kings.
“It’s obviously not the way you want to finish the period,” said Girardi. “But we talked about not letting it bother us. We had a good first period, good push in the second. If we had gotten that first goal it would have been a different game.”
McDonagh, his defense partner, disagreed.
"It doesn't change anything. WE didn't try to change our game. WE tried to keep going forward. I don't think momentum shifted. I thought we came back out, moving our feet, putting pucks on the net and trying to create. It didn't change anything,” he said, emphatically.
Besides the Kings getting the lead, the biggest change from Games 1 and 2 was the play of Quick, whom Vigneault called the best player in Game 3 after the loss.
“He’s a good goalie. He played well today. He had the bounces with him. It’s a frustrating loss. Not a lot of words out there to describe it,” said winger Mats Zuccarello, who was robbed by the post and Quick in the first period.
“I think everyone in there is working their asses off for the team. We didn’t have the right bounces today. It’s really tough right now, because you feel like you played a good game.”
So now the Rangers stare into the abyss of a Stanley Cup Final sweep, hoping to find whatever reasons to continue to believe.
Hey, the Kings had two overtime wins and a shutout in the first three games against the Devils in 2012, but couldn’t compete the sweep …
Hey, the Rangers were down 3-1 to the Penguins in the semifinals and rolled off five straight wins …
Hey, the Kings themselves become the fourth team in NHL history to rally from an 0-3 deficit to win a series back in the first round …
Just to believe.
“We gotta believe. We’ve done it before. It’s been done before. Harder things have been achieved. We can’t go out in Game 4 thinking we’ve lost the Stanley Cup Final,” said Zuccarello.