Two games. Three overtime periods. Two signature Los Angeles Kings comeback victories.
That's the status of the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals as it heads to the east coast for Game 3 between the Kings and the New York Rangers, and to say that plenty is on the line would be an understatement.
Another win for L.A. would move the club just one victory away from its second ever Stanley Cup and also the second in three years. A win for the Rangers, though, could prove as huge for their spirits and allow them the chance to tie things up at home in Game 4.
The first two games have been too good to be true, and there's little doubt that the action will only get better as the series goes on. Let's break down Game 3.
When: Monday, June 9 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City
TV: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Odds: New York -127, Los Angeles +115 (via OddsShark.com)
|Wed, June 4||Kings W, 3-2 OT||8 p.m.||NBC|
|Sat, June 7||Kings W, 5-4 OT||7:15 p.m.||NBC|
|Mon, June 9||Game 3: Kings at Rangers||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Wed, June 11||Game 4: Kings at Rangers||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Fri, June 13||Game 5: Rangers at Kings*||8 p.m.||NBC|
|Mon, June 16||Game 6: Kings at Rangers*||8 p.m.||NBC|
|Wed, June 18||Game 7: Rangers at Kings*||8 p.m.||NBC|
* if necessary. Source: NHL.com
Game 3 Preview
Ever heard of the phrase "so close, but no cigar"? Well, the Rangers have had said cigar between their lips with the match lit—two times—and nothing to show for it.
New York got out to a 2-0 first-period lead in the series opener, then again in Game 2. In fact, during Saturday's game, the Rangers went ahead two goals on two separate occasions.
But as they say, a two-goal lead is the most vulnerable lead in sports, and the Kings have become masters at taking advantage of such a situation. Once again on Saturday, L.A. had just enough to get into overtime, and once again, they got the game-winner when Dustin Brown deflected in a shot from the point by Willie Mitchell and sent Staples Center into a frenzy.
The Kings have not led in regulation time for a second of this series but are just two games away from hoisting the Cup. Not only that, but their span of playing from behind or tied dates back to before the final even started, per ESPN's Craig Custance:
According to the NHL, the Kings have not led in their last 229:15 of icetime, spanning four games.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) June 8, 2014
As inspiring as the result was on one end, it was nothing short of demoralizing for the Rangers. Even that might be putting it lightly. To the naked eye, they've been in control virtually all series long and still head home trailing two games to none.
Heading into Game 3, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault wasn't sugarcoating the game's importance, per ESPN New York:
2014 Stanley Cup finals -- Rangers coach Alain Vigneault calls Game 3 as close to must-win as team can have http://t.co/J6Q6mNm4BP— ESPN New York (@ESPNNewYork) June 8, 2014
There's nothing wrong with the Rangers heading into Game 3 with a sense of desperation, especially considering another loss would put them in the near-impossible 0-3 hole. But it's far from time to panic in the Big Apple.
A series doesn't truly take shape until a team loses a game at home, and despite the last two crushing defeats they've suffered, the Rangers have yet to do that. Stealing one of the first two games is highly encouraged, but not a must.
Who wins Game 3?
On the other side of things, it will be interesting to see how the Kings respond to the position that they're in. Much has been made of their resiliency from their epic comeback over San Jose to their three Game 7 victories, but playing while in front hasn't gone well for them this postseason.
L.A. has been up by two games in a series twice this postseason. The first time, the Kings led 2-0 against the Ducks only to allow Anaheim to rattle off three straight. Next up was the Blackhawks, who got in a 3-1 hole before winning two straight and taking the Kings to overtime in Game 7.
The Rangers will enter Game 3 hoping those sorts of troubles continue for L.A., or they could see their season start to slip away.