In a blink, Rangers sent to the brinkThe Blueshirts are one game from elimination after Monday's 3-0 defeat
For the entire series.
It's all they needed.
After they killed off a penalty to Willie Mitchell, the Kings skated quickly down the ice. Jeff Carter's shot in the waning seconds deflected off Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi's skate blade, off goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's glove, and off the back bar of the net with 0.8 seconds left in the opening period.
"I'm just laying down, and the puck got passed over, and it just nicks off the heel of my blade," said Girardi. "That's exactly how the series is going for us right now, a couple bad bounces."
"It's just one of those plays where with a little luck that puck ends up in the netting or in the glass," Lundqvist said in the disheartened Rangers locker room. "Unfortunately, with half-a-second left it ended up in our net."
The first 19:59 was fairly even. The Rangers didn't have the run of play, but neither did Los Angeles. Then came the backbreaking first goal. Another came 4:18 later, when Muzzin's power play shot from the point deflected off Rangers forward Martin St. Louis and past Lundqvist (12 saves). Mike Richards added a third goal late in the second to provide the Kings with their final cushion.
"You try to stay positive right now, but it's tough, it's really tough," Lundqvist said. "We're doing a lot of good things, but you look at the goals - we put two in our own net and then just a tough play on the third one."
From there, it was time for defense - and the Kings' work when protecting a lead is perhaps the best in the league. The Rangers had no chance, losing in their first Cup Final game at Madison Square Garden since 1994.
"We grind away and gradually take over games," said Kings captain Dustin Brown. "That goal at the end of the first with less than a second left is a big momentum swing. We had a big power play goal early [in the second]. We've had to play from behind so often and that's what everybody's talking about, but if you look at our record with leads after two periods, I think we've lost maybe three or four games in four or five years."
"It seemed like pretty much the same game-plan from them," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "We tried to continue with our speed, and had a lot of shots, but it doesn't mean anything if you can't put it in. You can battle for rebounds, but they do a good job of clearing out, so we have to fight and pay the price to whack one in."
So now, the deficit for New York is three. Only one team in league history has ever recovered from a 3-games-to-0 hole in the Stanley Cup Final, the 1942 Maple Leafs, who shocked the Red Wings in seven games.
"I'm just extremely disappointed that we're in this hole," Lundqvist said. "We've been talking about it after every game that we played really well, but in the end it's about finding ways to win. It's not about playing great, it's about winning. We have to regroup. It's not over."
"I don't know if surprised is the right word," McDonagh said of the series deficit. "It's a matter of continuing to believe and continue to prepare. The series isn't over yet, our guys know that. We've rallied off a winning streak before, but we have to start with one in order to do that. That's what our focus is."
That's the Rangers' task now. Impossible as it may seem, that's their task.
All because of eight-tenths of a second.