The New York Rangers likely won’t be coming back from this one.
Oh sure, they could conceivably win on Thursday night to force a Game 5 in Boston this weekend, and possibly win that one as well, thereby cutting their deficit in the Eastern Conference semifinals to one game.
Odds are, though, they won't—and ultimately, they also won't win their first Stanley Cup since 1994.
Their come-from-ahead 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, in which they surrendered a pair of third-period goals after nursing a one-goal lead, has left them in an 0-3 hole to a team that won the Stanley Cup just two years ago.
More importantly, it’s left them in a hole against a team that will not conceivably fold like the Washington Capitals did in the first round. The Caps had 2-0 and 3-2 series leads over the Rangers in the conference quarterfinals and then failed to score a goal in the final two games.
The Bruins are bigger, meaner and stronger than the Caps and have found ways to win in two of the three games this series, either or both of which the Rangers could have won.
Torey Krug tied it and Brad Marchand won it in overtime of Game 1 in Boston last Thursday. The Bruins then pasted the Rangers, 5-2, on Sunday, getting goals from five different skaters and 35 saves from Tuukka Rask in breaking a 1-1 second-period tie to take a 2-0 series lead.
Tuesday night, the Bruins trailed by a goal going into the final period before getting goals from Johnny Boychuk on a wrist shot from the right point and Daniel Paille off a weird bouncing rebound in front, the latter with just 3:31 remaining in regulation. Tough guy Shawn Thornton assisted on both scores and Rask made 24 saves to negate the 32 stops made by his counterpart Henrik Lundqvist, who still sports a .935 save percentage so far in these playoffs in stopping 340 of 362 total shots.
“You have to work hard to get the bounces,” said Lundqvist to NBC Sports Network after Game 3.
"He was outstanding. He was outstanding," said Rangers coach John Tortorella (via NHL.com) of Lundqvist.
The Ranger’s No. 30 can’t score goals, though—and half the time, neither can his teammates. Barring the five-goal burst in the Game 7 clincher against Washington, New York has scored one goal or less in half of its 10 playoff outings to date and is just 1-4 in those games. They have just five goals so far in this series.
The New York power play again failed to ignite in limited action in Game 3, going 0-for-2. New York is now 0-for-10 in the series when playing a man up and just 2-for-38 overall in the postseason.
“This is one of the worst power plays I’ve ever seen,” said former NHL player and current NBC Sports Network commentator Jeremy Roenick following Game 3.
Roenick pointed out how the Rangers don’t set up properly on the power play, make poor passes or only send in one man on the forecheck. He also suggested that a series loss, highlighted by such a miserable man advantage, might ultimately cost Tortorella his job.
Taylor Pyatt scored the Rangers’ only goal Tuesday, his first of these playoffs, which now ties him with multi-millionaires Rick Nash and Brad Richards on the team scoring scroll after 10 games.
Clubs have come back from the brink of elimination in the Stanley Cup playoffs before; the Philadelphia Flyers turned that trick just three seasons ago in the second round en route to a Stanley Cup Final appearance. That series, though, was against these same Bruins, who you can bet aren’t eager to repeat that performance—especially after nearly squandering a 3-1 series lead in Round 1 this year against Toronto, a series Boston ultimately salvaged with a miraculous Game 7 comeback.
A Rangers team that some picked to win the Stanley Cup in this lockout-shortened season is now just one loss away from going home for the summer.
Coming back from three games down isn’t physically impossible. Psychologically, though, it’s pretty much insurmountable.
“As a group now, we have to leave everything out there Thursday,” said Lundqvist.
That still might not be enough.