NEW YORK -- When the puck drops on Game 4 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, the Stanley Cup will be in the building, ready for the taking in the event of a Los Angeles Kings victory. It’s up to the New York Rangers, trailing 3-0 in the series, to stave off a sweep and salvage some pride.
The Kings are seeking their second Stanley Cup championship in the matter of three years while the Rangers are making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals in two decades. Experience has favored Los Angeles already this series, with the comeback Kings rallying from behind to knock off the Blueshirts in the first two games of the best-of-seven set. The Rangers are coming off Monday’s demoralizing 3-0 blanking at the hands of goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was sensational in recording his second shutout of the postseason. With Quick playing the type of lights-out hockey that earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy just two years ago and the Kings drooling over an opportunity to close out the series, the Rangers have to muster nothing short of their absolute best or their summer begins Thursday.
Quick-solver: The Rangers had no answer for the superb, stingy play of Quick on Monday, when he made 32 stops to hold New York scoreless. Though many pundits touted Henrik Lundqvist as the superior goaltender in this matchup, Quick has outplayed his Swedish counterpart through the first three games. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the last time Lundqvist has allowed 11 goals over the first three games of a series was in 2008 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a series the Rangers lost in five games.
Down and out: Perhaps the most striking thing in the aftermath of the Rangers' 3-0 loss Monday was how despondent and downtrodden the team seemed the following morning. Brad Richards said it was "impossible to be upbeat" and the entire team made no effort to conceal just how bad they were smarting from the most recent loss. Can they shake this funk? The mood was much more focused and optimistic Wednesday morning after the team's optional skate, but perhaps Tuesday was a glimpse into the team's fragile psyche and its crushing sense of frustration with how this series has gone.
Making changes: It is not yet immediately clear whether he will be back in the Rangers lineup Wednesday, but gritty winger Daniel Carcillo is eligible to return from suspension in Game 4. Carcillo was originally slapped with a 10-game ban for striking an official during the team's third-round series against the Montreal Canadiens, though that suspension was later reduced to six games. Carcillo said he did not know whether he will play, but hopes to provide some jump if called upon: "Obviously we need a good effort tonight. It's do or die."
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