There were no Mark Messier-like guarantees flying out of a despondent Rangers locker room Tuesday afternoon, but at least one voice tried to make a stand for the team’s collective pride.
“You don’t want to end your season losing a game at home and giving the Stanley Cup to their team. It’s not going to happen that way,” defenseman Marc Staal said. “We want to come out and get one game.”
It was quite difficult to find a Ranger who matched Staal’s optimism. The Blueshirts’ room, one that was so boisterous after a Game 6 victory in the Eastern Conference final, has now grown dejected after the team dropped the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final to the L.A. Kings. Not that a perturbed Alain Vigneault expected anything less.
“We’re down 3-0. We’re all lacking sleep. . . . I didn’t expect my players today to be cheery and upbeat,” Vigneault said. “You don’t get a lot of these opportunities. Excuse us if today we’re not real cheery. But tomorrow I can tell you we’re going to show up.”
BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGESThe Kings raise the Stanley Cup in 2012, and can do it again on Wednesday at the Garden.
They’ll have to bring their best in Wednesday night’s Game 4 if they want to avoid a repeat of 1972, when the Boston Bruins hoisted the Cup on the Madison Square Garden ice — the only road team to do so in the Rangers’ storied history.
The Rangers are well-aware of the task ahead of them, knowing that only four teams the 1942 Maple Leafs, the 1975 Islanders, the 2010 Flyers and this year’s Kings have ever won a series after trailing 3-0, with the Leafs being the only team to do so in the Stanley Cup Final. There have been 20 sweeps in Final history since the league went to a seven-game format in the 1938-39 season, the last one coming in 1998 when the Red Wings rolled over the Capitals. The Rangers would love to avoid being the 21st.
De facto captain Brad Richards, who has struggled mightily in the series, tried his best to stay positive while describing why the Ranger’s psyche and their season — have suddenly taken a nose-dive on hockey’s biggest stage.
“(The Kings) are a good team that three years in a row now made a run, and with that confidence grows, and when you have a majority of a team with a Stanley Cup ring on their finger, they don’t get rattled. But that doesn’t mean they’re unbeatable,” Richards said. “They don’t win every year, but they’re a good team, we know that, but we have to still believe we’re a good team and stay with the process.”
At this point, perhaps the only way that the Cup will seem less like a mirage and more like a reality for the Rangers is if the man who got them to this point begins to stand on his head. Though he’s suffered some bad bounces and had at least one blown call go against him, Henrik Lundqvist has not been at his best against the Kings. After surrendering just 12 goals in a six-game series against Montreal including a shutout in Game 6 Lundqvist has allowed 11 goals in three games against L.A. Though the two goalies have the same amount of saves thus far in the series (91), the Kings’ Jonathan Quick has outplayed Lundqvist, allowing just six goals and shutting out the Blueshirts at the Garden in Game 3.
If there is hope for the Blueshirts to return to Los Angeles and avoid watching Kings captain Dustin Brown plant a kiss on the Cup at the World’s Most Famous Arena, Lundqvist will have to assert himself as a King amongst Kings. No one seemed to believe that more than Lundqvist himself.
“I don’t feel like (I need to have a shutout), but I know I have to play really well for us to win,” Lundqvist said. “I do believe we can turn this around. I do, because we’ve been that close in every game. They’re a really good team and they’re not going to hand us anything. We have to go out and earn it.”