NEW YORK — The home dressing room was subdued on Tuesday, a place of quiet voices and desperation. The Rangers had lost their third game to Los Angeles the night before, putting themselves one loss from watching the Kings celebrate the Stanley Cup on their home ice.
The Rangers sounded like a team convincing themselves to have faith, even though they had come back from a 3-1 series deficit to the Penguins earlier in these playoffs, even though they had seen the Kings come back from down 3-0 to the Sharks.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s pretty much impossible to be upbeat,” said veteran center Brad Richards, who won the Cup with the Lightning in 2004. “But you have to be professional and the series is not over. You get through today, get a good meal, get a good night’s sleep and then it’s game day again.
“We all can’t wait to get back on the ice right now. It’s the waiting and thinking that’s the tough part.”
But what will they do when they get back on that ice?
They said all the right things, all the clichés and platitudes, all the words that every team down 3-0 in a playoff series has ever said. It just wasn’t quite clear if the Rangers actually thought they could come through.
“We’re focusing on one game,” said right wing Martin St. Louis, who also played on the 2004 Cup winners. “We’re not trying to look at the big picture right now. We’re going to go play one game. There’s 28 teams that would love to be in our place right now, in the Stanley Cup Final, down 3, still being alive. So we’re going to keep pushing.”
He added, “Belief is everything,” while sounding like he was working far too hard to make himself believe. He was not alone.
“I think you feel a lot of different emotions right now and anger is probably one of them,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “I think it’s important that you don’t feel sorry for yourself.
“You’re disappointed and upset you’re in this position. But 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.”
Nor should it be. The Rangers had chances to win each of the first two games, with 2-0 leads in both.
Then, back home at Madison Square Garden, they got demolished, 3-0, on Monday night. They have earned their disappointment.
“We’re down 3-0. We’re all lacking sleep. This is tough,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “I didn’t expect my players today to be cheery and upbeat. We’re in the Stanley Cup Final and we’re down 3-0. 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.”
Teams have come back from a 3-0 series deficit four times in NHL history, starting with Toronto in the 1942 Stanley Cup Final. The other two were the Islanders in 1975, the Flyers (over the Bruins) in 2010, and these Kings in the first round over the Sharks.
“It wasn’t easy for us to come back from 3-0 in the first series against San Jose,” said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. “We know how it can happen. 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.”
Mike Richards has done it twice. He was on the Flyers team in 2010 and, obviously, the Kings this season.
Jeff Carter was on the Flyers as well that season, but did not play in the series against Boston.
After serving his six-game suspension for making contact with an official in the Eastern Conference finals against the Canadiens, Dan Carcillo is eligible to return in Game 4. But will he? “I don’t really know what’s going to happen for [Wednesday],” Carcillo said. “Just to be around the guys and be in the room, that’ll be a nice change and a nice feeling. Just going to go from there, don’t really know too much.” . . . Asked what his team can do differently in Game 4, Vigneault offered, “Score.” . . . When Kings general manager Dean Lombardi asked Darryl Sutter about coaching his team before the 2011 season, Sutter said no. “That was the first thing I said,” Sutter said. Asked how long it took until he agreed to the job, Sutter said, “It was quite a while.” . . . If you’re eager for the start of Game 4, Doughty knows how you feel. “It kind of [stinks] that the game is at 8 o’clock,” he said.