- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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OTTAWA, Ontario -- Having been part of two teams that have erased 3-0 series deficits in the past five seasons, Mike Richards should start giving seminars on the art of the incredible comeback.
"Maybe I’ll write a book when I’m done here," Richards said, chuckling when reached by ESPN.com this week.
The veteran Los Angeles Kings center knew, of course, why we were calling: the Ottawa Senators are down 3-0 in their series and facing elimination against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 at Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday night.
Tell us, Professor Richards, given the knowledge you have gained from being part of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers rallying back from down 3-0 to beat the Boston Bruins, and, of course, last spring’s eventual Cup-champion Kings doing the same to the San Jose Sharks, what’s the secret to it all?
"Both times, I thought, for the most part, if not for a bounce or two either way, the series could have been 2-1, up or down," Richards said.
Which by the way, as Richards himself pointed out, that is probably how the Senators feel, as they have lost three one-goal games to the Habs, two of them in overtime.
"Obviously, the first one is the biggest one, just to get a win under your belt," continued Richards. "It starts at home, and then Game 5 is big too, in their building, they’re going to have a big push. It’s about getting confidence back into the group. When you win a game, you suddenly build your confidence. And as the series goes on, if it does continue, you just start playing better."
If the Senators can get to a Game 5 in Montreal, it’s funny how the pressure suddenly can shift midway through that game if the home team hasn’t put its foot on the other team’s throat. Both Boston and San Jose realized at some point in their Game 5s that they had a series on their hands.
"I’ve watched a bit of the Ottawa games," said Richards. "As well as Montreal has played, I think in a lot of parts of the game the other night [Game 3], Ottawa outplayed them too. They’ve had a great run for the last two months. Maybe they don’t have as much confidence now being down 3-0 -- that’s the biggest thing, getting that back in the dressing room."
What the Senators have that many other teams in their position don’t, Richards said, is the 21-3-3 run they went on to close out the regular season and make the playoffs against all odds. Against all odds.
"For Ottawa, they went on quite the run to end the regular season, so that shouldn’t seem like too much of a battle winning four games," said Richards. "Four in a row shouldn’t seem as steep to them as it does to most other teams. Their run was pretty incredible at the end of the year."
But, Richards stressed, the players in that dressing room must have the right attitude about it all. It’s not every team that’s down 3-0 that truly, truly believes it can come back. Or are willing to do what it takes to do it.
"So much of it is confidence. If you believe you can do it, there’s a chance," Richards said. "If everyone in there is planning to go home, there’s not much of one. It’s about the mindset in the dressing room."
Do these Senators truly believe?
"When you’re in a game like this, you feel you can win them all. I’m excited. I still feel we have a chance," said Senators rookie winger Mark Stone.
Stone says he’s been in 3-0 series before, in junior hockey.
"It’s a little different in junior, though," said Stone. "Young kids kind of throw in the towel in junior. I know we’re not throwing in the towel."
As Richards said, just win Game 4 and see where it brings you.
"It’s doable," said Senators winger Clarke MacArthur. "Obviously, a huge uphill climb, but it doesn’t feel like a 3-0 series. A couple of those games, the first game we kind of gave away. We just need to find a way to get one. If we get one, we put a little doubt into them, give yourself a chance to go to Montreal and make something happen there."
The odds, even with the 2010 and 2013 comebacks by Richards’ Flyers and Kings, are mind-crushingly bad.
But there is no need to look at those odds if you’re Ottawa.
"You try not to read into it," said Senators defenseman Marc Methot. "Was it L.A. last year that came down from 3-0 in a series? You’ve got to know that you are ultimately in control of your own destiny when it comes to playing games. You’re going to give yourself the best opportunity if you are prepared to play and you want to win the game. We just look at it as one game and work your way up from there."
If anyone knows what to do when your team is on the brink of elimination in a series, it is Kings center Mike Richards.