By Matt Calamia
The Stanley Cup Final heads some 2,800 miles Monday night, from Los Angeles and the Staples Center to New York and Madison Square Garden, with the Rangers looking to get back in the series after dropping the first two games against the Kings.
Despite the hole, the Rangers are confident as they return home. They’ve been one goal away in both contests, losing both games in overtime while not trailing for a second through more than 2 hours and 35 minutes.
“I think we played two good games over there,” forward Mats Zuccarello said Sunday after the team arrived in New York. “We didn’t get the bounces in the OT. We got to limit our mistakes. I think we’re a confident group. I think we played the best hockey.”
The Rangers have had three different two-goal leads in the series, including two Saturday night in Game 2, a 5-4 double-overtime loss. While that’s a positive, the Rangers blew those leads all three times.
“I think if we keep playing the same way, we have a great chance to win,” said Derick Brassard, who scored the Rangers’ fourth and final marker in Game 2 in the second period. “It’s a far way to be over. We came back from 1-3 against Pittsburgh. We proved to ourselves that we can come back against some really good teams. I think we showed ourselves that we can play with those guys.”
While no game is a true must-win, head coach Alain Vigneault said his team is certainly close.
“Tomorrow is about as close to a ‘must’ game as I think you can have,” Vigneault said, “Until you face elimination, that’s as close as we can get.
“There are a lot of good things we’re doing on the ice,” Vigneault added. “There are a couple things we need to clean up that we’re going to address tomorrow with our group. For the most part, we’ve given ourselves a real good chance, and that’s what we’re going to try to do tomorrow.”
Brassard echoed his coach’s sentiment, and then some.
“Every game this time of the year is a must-win,” Brassard lamented. “I think the guys are pretty excited for tomorrow. We’ve been playing with those guys every period. It’s a pretty tight series. It’s a hard-fought battle out there.”
The Rangers have done a good job all playoff long of forgetting quickly after a loss or two.
“That’s been the story all playoffs is being in the moment,” John Moore said. “Nothing really changes. All we can do now is be ready for that next opportunity. We have a great one in front of us now that we can take advantage of.”
The Rangers will get a lift Monday when they return to MSG for the first Stanley Cup Final game in 20 years, with many Blueshirts playing in the first Stanley Cup Final home game of their careers.
“It’s going to be huge,” Moore said when asked about returning home. “It doesn’t get any bigger than this. We’re going to expect them to be loud and be behind us.”