NEW YORK -- Humbling? Oh, this suddenly lopsided rout of a Stanley Cup finals has been that and more for the New York Rangers.
Even though the Rangers suffered two gut-wrenching overtime losses in Games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles, there was a feeling that they had enough left in the tank, enough character and resolve to hold serve at Madison Square Garden to make this a series. Certainly, that was the brave talk leading up to Game 3 Monday night.
But as the Los Angeles Kings calmly and meticulously carved themselves a 3-0 victory out of the tattered remains of the Rangers' Stanley Cup dreams, it was revealed as just that, so much talk. In a game that should have seen a Rangers team at its desperate best, New York did not have nearly enough players deliver the walk to match the talk.
The Rangers' power play went dry on six attempts and is now 1-for-14 in the series. Brad Richards continued to struggle. Rick Nash continued to make plays but still has just three goals through 23 postseason games, and head coach Alain Vigneault uses him only rarely on the power play. The production from the Rangers' blue line doesn't compare to the nightly contributions the Kings are getting from their blue-line corps.
On this night, the Kings managed just 15 shots but somehow managed to come up with more than enough offense to close to within one win of their second Stanley Cup title in three years.
"Like I said a couple of times tonight, it's a frustrating loss. There's not a lot of words out there to describe. I feel like we're a good team," said Mats Zuccarello, who was again the Rangers' best forward.
"It's tough to talk about it right now," he added, perhaps thinking about his own glorious chance to put one past Kings netminder Jonathan Quick in the first period with the game still scoreless. But Zuccarello, standing at the side of the net, couldn't find the handle on a rebound that came to him, and a diving Quick got a paddle on his attempt and the puck skittered away.
Someone noted that earlier this spring the Rangers won five in a row, including three straight against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round after falling behind 3-1 in that series.
"We've done it before. It's been done before. Harder things have been achieved than that," Zuccarello said. "It's going to be tough. But we can't go out playing Game 4 thinking we've lost the Stanley Cup final; we've got to believe. And we've got to keep playing the same way and get some goals. I think everyone in here is working their asses off for the team.
"But we didn't have the right bounces today and, like I said, it's really tough right now because you feel like you played a good game but it really doesn't matter when you lose hockey games."
Three games into this series, it simply seems as though whatever the Rangers do will not be enough and the Kings are good enough to take exactly what is given to them and turn it into glory. That's what happens with a team that has the pedigree the Kings have. Even a modest number of mistakes can be two or three too many.