Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.
The Rangers' day off between Games 2 and 3 included the lengthy flight back from Los Angeles. It could have been a time for recharging, as Alain Vigneault put it once the team landed. It could have been a time for relaxation, given the two games and 35 extra minutes of hockey played to open these Finals.
What the Rangers could not afford, however, is any time for reflection. They were the better team for long stretches of Games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles, undone by a few untimely mistakes -- by themselves and the officials.
Vigneault was polite but firm Sunday about the Kings' disputed third goal Saturday night, when Dwight King impeded Henrik Lundqvist from stopping a shot that went in off King's leg.
Referee Dan O'Halloran emphatically missed the call -- and compounded it by not even consulting with his fellow on-ice officials, a real mistake given the controversy surrounding all goaltender interference issues.
There also was a missed call on a delay-of-game infraction in the second overtime just before Dustin Brown tipped in the winner.
Next season, calls such as those likely will be changed upon video review. The NHL's general managers likely will approve review for both of those situations to help get the calls right. For now, the Rangers came up on the short end. They can't afford to dwell on it because Game 3 is Monday night.
"At the end of the day, that shouldn't have been a goal, in my opinion," Vigneault said. "Those are things that happen in playoff hockey. Usually they even themselves out, and that's what we're going to hope."
The Rangers really don't have to hope for too much else. They had a pair of 2-0 leads to start both games, they had two more two-goal leads in response to goals by the Kings on Saturday night, and then they had a few ugly moments as both games went to overtime.
There is no solace in being the better team when the Cup is halfway out of your grasp. But if the Rangers can keep bad thoughts away, Game 3 at the Garden can be just as special a night as any one of them had thought it would be.
"We've been playing with those guys every period," Derick Brassard said. "We're just going to go out there and play the same way we've been playing."
Don't forget the Kings' role in this, either. They were supposed to be the bigger, badder team in this series, and you can't argue with where they sit now. But as frustrated and unlucky as the Rangers must feel, the Kings can't be feeling anything but fortunate after giving up great scoring chances and generally playing without much of that vaunted structure they've built during the last few seasons.
"We're not proud of the way we've started games, and we find ourselves in the same situation, regurgitating the same mumbo-jumbo every time," said Justin Williams, who likely is the odds-on Conn Smythe favorite now for a team whose big stars have been lacking. "We're in a results-oriented league, and the results are we're up 2-0. I don't care how we got here."
The Rangers have to not care, either. They may be down, they may have gotten hosed on a couple of monumental calls, but you don't get to the Stanley Cup Final without being able to put aside adverse moments.
That's never been more important.
"I think everyone was done with [Game 2 Sunday] morning," Mats Zuccarello said. "Whatever happens before this, it's gone."