- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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New York Rangers forward Brian Boyle sat in his stall, hunched over and frothing in frustration, but dead-set in his declaration following a pivotal 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 3.
"We’ve got more hockey to play," said Boyle, almost breathless with exasperation. "We’re not done by any means."
It was the sort of statement that comes only in the presence of a do-or-die situation, and the Rangers face that now as they trail the Bruins 3-0 in their second-round series.
After dropping the first pair of games in Boston, the Rangers returned home to Madison Square Garden, where they had recorded nine straight wins, only to see a third-period lead evaporate late in the third with Daniel Paille’s game-winner with 3:31 remaining in regulation.
It was a waste of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s pristine performance and a crippling reminder of how dangerous Boston can be if given extended zone time.
Now, all that separates the Bruins from completing the sweep and punching their ticket to the Eastern Conference finals is Game 4 on Thursday.
"It feels like we lost a big game and that sucks," said Boyle, who was livid with his own performance. "There were a lot of areas I could’ve contributed more and that’s infuriating. Biggest game of the year and it just wasn’t enough."
Boyle’s line of Taylor Pyatt and Derek Dorsett was effective in a checking role when used to neutralize Boston’s trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Jaromir Jagr, but the hulking center was particularly critical of his play from the dots. He finished 4-for-21 from the faceoff circle, a feeble 19 percent.
"We were in our own zone for way too long because I couldn’t win a friggin’ draw," Boyle said.
After the Rangers built a 1-0 lead in the second period on Taylor Pyatt’s deflection goal, the Bruins won the puck battles and controlled the territorial game, with extended time in the Rangers’ end.
Lundqvist was stellar throughout the game -- stopping two backhanded breakaways in the first period, snagging a blistering slapshot in the second -- but faced far too much pressure.
After escaping the second period unscathed, the Rangers surrendered the tying goal to Boston’s Johnny Boychuk -- his fourth marker of the postseason.
"We knew they were going to push," captain Ryan Callahan said. "I thought we had a pretty good third period, but we gave up a goal and we don’t get one. It’s tough."
The thought of relinquishing a two-game series lead to Toronto in Round 1 provided the Bruins with the motivation to keep grinding, and they were rewarded late in the third with Paille’s winner.
The fourth-liner swooped in from behind the net to sweep in a puck that had deflected off Lundqvist’s mask and off the crossbar.
Of course, they’ve seen a commanding 3-0 series lead disappear as well, when the Flyers completed a stunning comeback against them in 2010. Philadelphia is one of only three teams in NHL history to surmount a 3-0 series deficit during the playoffs.
"We had to live with that. We still have to live with that," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
Julien said this team, which also let the Leafs force a Game 7 despite entering Game 5 with a 3-1 series advantage, is playing on a whole new level now.
"I didn’t think we were in the zone [against Toronto] like we are now," he said.
That was a focus heading into Game 3 for the Bruins, as Marchand detailed Tuesday morning in the hours before the puck drop.
"We try to learn from every situation," Marchand said. "We realize we let [Toronto] back in it. We didn’t have that killer instinct. We want to make sure to try and step up and do the job."
Meanwhile, the Rangers are on the brink of elimination with a depleted defense, inept power play and a whole slew of statistics stacked against them.
The Rangers are 0-10 all-time in playoff series when trailing 3-0, and, according to Elias Sports Bureau, no team has ever overcome 2-0 deficits in two consecutive best-of-seven-series in the same playoff year.
There is also the matter of pride at stake, with the Rangers desperate to avoid the "S" word.
Rangers coach John Tortorella admitted his team was in a "tough situation" but said he had confidence in how they’d response.
"I have full faith in our athletes," he said.
The Rangers are a proud bunch, and determined. According to Boyle, this series is not over, no matter how well the Bruins are playing.
"They’re a good team. They’ve got some depth," Boyle said. "We’re a good team, too. We’ll show it Thursday."
40dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald