Now that the Rangers have returned to Madison Square Garden and eagerly await their first home game of the Stanley Cup Final, one must find words to describe what’s ahead tonight against the invading Kings.
Not a single Blueshirt wanted to come home two games down in the best-of-seven series. Perhaps the best word to describe the dressing room feeling is frustration.
“We played close to nine periods (six regulation and two-and-a-half OT sessions) and, for the most part, I liked a lot of things about our game,” said head coach Alain Vigneault. “Our guys are trying real hard and we’ve had opportunities in both games.”
That they did and it explains why one other term comes to mind — elusive.
No word better describes the feeling in Rangerville about the two potential Ws that became a pair of Ls for the Blueshirts in Los Angeles.
After all, how much closer can a hockey team come than taking the home team to a pair of sudden death overtimes; especially when Chris Krieder hits an OT post and follows that up by being foiled on a clean breakaway?
A mere two games away from elimination, the Rangers will tell you that right now there’s no time for panic.
But the normally low-key Vigneault still was seething when he got off the Rangers jet and discussed the goalie interference that led to LA’s critical third goal in the third period.
“Look at that third goal any way you want,” the coach insists, “but at the end of the day, that shouldn’t have been a goal. We were a little bit unlucky.”
Then a pause and a look to tonight’s Game 3: “I believe it’s going to even out and I believe that we’re going to win the next game.”
But AV wasn’t through with the officiating. Before the winning goal was scored in the second sudden death, the Kings attempted clear sailed over the glass and a delay of game penalty was in order against LA. No penalty was called.
Vigneault: “A lot of people think we should have been on the power play (as a result of the puck over the glass incident) because the Kings flicked the puck out. Instead of having a face-off in the defensive zone, we should have had a face-off on the power play.”
No question, the World’s Most Famous Arena will be rocking to a crescendo and ever Ranger knows it, especially Mats Zuccarello.
“We have the best fans in the world,” said the Whirling Dervish of 33rd Street, “and they’ll give us a good boost. Hopefully we win two in a row and even the series.”
MAVEN’S FUN PLAYOFF FACT
During the 1950 semi-final round playoff between the Rangers and Canadiens, Maurice (The Rocket) Richard was the most feared scorer in the NHL. As a result, Rangers coach Lynn Patrick assigned his defensive forward Pentti Lund to guard The Rocket.
Lund did his job so well that Richard scored only one goal, and that on the play, when Pentti was sitting on the bench. Other than that, Lund proved that turned around his fair play. The Finnish-born Ranger led the club in scoring as they upset the Habs in five games and went to the Stanley Cup Final.