In his heart of hearts, Henrik Lundqvist can't believe the Kings are so far ahead of the Rangers as either Monday night's 3-0 loss or their 3-0 Stanley Cup Final deficit suggests. To him, it feels as though the two finalists are evenly matched, but the Rangers goaltender can't deny the results have been lopsided.
Lundqvist allowed three goals on just 13 shots through the first two periods, but when you consider the first two were deflected by Rangers teammates and the third came on a two-on-one breakaway, you can't blame him for feeling snakebit.
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"I'm extremely disappointed that we're in this hole," Lundqvist said. "We talk about it after every game. 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. In a game like this, every little play matters. They had the luck so far in the three games, but it feels like it's been pretty even. But they've been finding ways to get the big goals at the right time, I guess."
The right time came with eight-tenths of a second left in the period when a shot by the Kings' Jeff Carter changed direction off the skate of sliding Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi and lit the lamp, hushing the Madison Square Garden crowd.
"Yeah, I was reacting low, and it went high," Lundqvist said. "It's just one of those plays where, with a little luck, that puck ends up in the netting or the glass. Unfortunately, half a second left, and it was in our net."
The second period started just as badly as the first period ended. A high-sticking penalty on Marc Staal led to a power-play goal by Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin that deflected off Ranger Martin St. Louis.
"In the second period, we played really well," Lundqvist said. "We had good chances, and then they get that [goal] on the power play. You could feel how the energy kind of went down a little bit."
Actually, the Rangers turned up the offensive pressure after the Kings' second goal with the help of three power plays. But to no avail. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick stopped all 32 shots he faced. The Kings then put the game out of reach when Mike Richards netted the two-on-one breakaway.
"We're playing well enough to win games," Lundqvist said. "I guess that's the frustrating part as well. We're down 3-0, and it feels like we could easily have two wins. That's not the case . . . Obviously, it's mentally challenging to try to overcome."
Now the Rangers have to attempt something achieved only once in Stanley Cup Final history -- come back from 3-0 to win four straight. They can draw on their monumental comeback from a 3-1 deficit against Pittsburgh in the Eastern semifinals.
"We want to win one in front of our own fans in this building," Lundqvist said. "I think that's as far as we're looking at it. We can't look at it that we have to win four straight. It's possible. But right now, we want to get one win."