Rangers are down in the dumps in this Stanley Cup final
New York Rangers’ Martin St. Louis and Mats Zuccarello skate off the ice after being shut out in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final on June 9, 2014. (ADAM HUNGER/USA TODAY Sports)
They look done. Almost all the New York Rangers do.
They are trying to be positive, trying to be optimistic, but down three games in the Stanley Cup final to the Los Angeles Kings is well, rather unnerving, surprisingly unexpected and it's come at them without time for reflection.
"We're down 3-0," said coach Alain Vigneault, trying to bring some perspective to the day between Cup games. "We're all lacking sleep. This is tough.
"I didn't expect my players today to be cheery and upbeat. We're in the Stanley Cup final and were down 3-0. You don't get a lot of these opportunities. Excuse me if today we're not cheery. But tomorrow I can tell you we're going to show up."
Show up is fine. Win is another matter entirely. The Rangers had every opportunity to win Games 1 and 2, both games in which they led, both games losing in overtime. In Game 3, the first Cup game in New York in 20 years, every bounce that could have gone against them, went against them. But still, they didn't score on Jonathan Quick.
When Vigneault was asked what he could change or differently in Game 4, he deadpanned: "Score."
He was kidding. Or he wasn't. It was hard to tell which.
But if reading the expressions of the Rangers players' faces is in any way relevant, their faces said what some of the players said. They were out of answers.
"We're facing the same situation that we were against Pittsburgh," the coach said. "We lose and we're done. If we don't want to be done, we've got to win."
Martin St. Louis made the mountain-climbing analogy. The task for the Rangers is akin to climbing a giant mountain.
"But you can't look at the top," he said. "You have to look at the first 400 or 500 metres. You can't scale the mountain all at once. You have to be smart. You have to have a strategy."
St. Louis, for one, was not buying the Henrik Lundqvist theory that everything is going against the Rangers, every call, every bounce. "If we wait for a bounce," St. Louis said, "we could be waiting a long time."
And they don't have a long time. They have a game. Maybe two. That's about all anyone can expect. This isn't just a difference of teams in this championship round, but a differences of conference. The West will win again this year, as did last year, and the year before that.
"I'm not going to lie to you," said Brad Richards, the stand-by captain of the Rangers and soon to be ex-Ranger. "It's pretty much impossible to be upbeat today. But you have to be professional and the series is not over.
"You get through today, get a good meal, get a good night sleep and put all this behind you."
Lundqvist, meanwhile, is taking defeat personally. This is his first Stanley Cup Final. It might be his last. He went home and watched tapes of Game 3, in particular the three goals scored on him. He wanted to see what happened, so the goals went in.
"I'm tracking the puck," he said, self-assured. By his own admission, he wouldn't have played any of the goals differently upon reflection. He did what he could. The bounces and the deflections were his enemy.
"This is a tough day today," Lundqvist said. "It was tough last night. You have to move on.
"You have understand how serious the situation is and how tough it is to try to turn this around. But now we're only looking at tomorrow and trying to win that game. That's what we're going to try to accomplish."
Lundqvist understands that much: Four times he has faced elimination in the playoffs and four times he has won.
The Stanley Cup will be back at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night for the first time in 20 years. But it will be presented if the Kings win Game 4. Los Angeles has not been in this position at any time in the post-season, going seven games in each of the first three rounds.
This has been their short round. The Rangers didn't see themselves as being that. They thought the goalie battle gave them chance. They thought their speed would make a difference. They thought their defence was more than capable.
But there are four legitimate Conn Smythe Trophy candidates on the Kings -- Drew Doughty, Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter -- and really not one on the Rangers at this point in time.
"What needs to happen is the action on the ice," Vigneault said. "I like the way we've played. We've played some good hockey. But we haven't found a way to win."
And time is running out.