New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi (5) falls over the back of goalie Henrik Lundqvist (rear) and sweeps the puck off the goal line and away from Los Angeles Kings right wing Marian Gaborik (12) during the third period in game three of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Madison Square Garden. (USA TODAY Sports: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo)
The New York Rangers’ backs are firmly pinned against the wall. One more loss and they’re history in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Rangers go into Game 4 on Wednesday night in Madison Square Garden trailing the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 in the best-of-seven series. New York lost 3-0 to the Kings on Monday night, putting them in a real bind. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942 have rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win the Cup.
But Rangers coach Alan Vigneault is trying his best not to make too big a deal about the deficit. Instead, the Rangers can point to their comeback from a 3-1 deficit in their second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins last month.
“We’re facing the same exact situation we were against Pittsburgh: We lose, we’re done,” Vigneault said. “If we don’t want to be done, we’ve got to win.”
Easier said than done against an impressive Kings team that got past the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Western Conference Finals and the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks in seven-game playoff series to move to the brink of its second Stanley Cup in three years.
“It wasn’t easy for us to come back from 3-0 in the first series against San Jose. We know how it can happen,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “All it takes is one game, one momentum shift, the team can run with it, the other team can be down in the dumps.
“That’s why this next game is so important for us. We can’t let them back into the series. We have to take it to them. They’re going to have their best effort without a doubt and we need to have ours as well.”
All the Rangers can do at this point is take a one-game-at-at-time approach, Vigneault said, and not get overwhelmed by the huge hole his team is in.
“I know my players and I know the values that they have, their competitive nature,” he said. “Again, everybody’s going to come out and say all the right things. All that, like I mentioned, is just talk.
“What needs to happen is the actions on the ice. I like the way we’ve played. I mean, we’ve played some good hockey, but we haven’t found a way to win. That’s what we’ve got to do tomorrow.”
Vigneault wasn’t upset with the way the Rangers played in Game 3 or, for that matter, in the series. He pointed to the play of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick as the difference on Monday night. Quick made 32 saves and posted his ninth career playoff shutout.
“I mean, their goaltender made some key saves at the right time. Just like we’ve seen Hank (Rangers goaltender Hendrik Lundqvist) do so many times to the opposition on the road, their goaltender did it to us yesterday,” Vigneault said. “Are there things we could do better around their net? I thought as far as net presence and getting to second opportunities, we did a good job. (Quick) was just able to stop them. I think if it would have gone on for three, four more periods, he was in that zone last night.
“We’re going to show our guys a couple things here. Coaches met this morning. Maybe we can do them a little bit better. And hopefully he won’t be as good as he was last night.”
Lundqvist is trying not to be too hard on himself and remain confident going into the make-or-break Game 4.
“I think you feel a lot of different emotions right now, and anger is probably one of them,” he said. “I think it’s important that you don’t feel sorry for yourself. But, you know, you’re disappointed and upset you’re in this position. At the same time, you have to accept it and move on and get ready for the next game. But today, yeah, it’s not a happy room, obviously.
“We worked really hard and long to get here. Again, we’re playing a really good team. They take advantage of mistakes. They play extremely well defensively, I think. We still believe that we can do it. We have to start by just focusing on the first period tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, the Kings will be aiming for a sweep.
“You just want to get out there. You don’t want to get overanxious at the same time. But it’s fun to play in these types of games,” Doughty said. “When the pressure’s at a high, you just want to go out there, play your best as a team, win games.”