Rangers don't do a lot wrong in Game 3, just 'couldn't score'

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

Game 3 wasn't a matter of New York playing poorly. (Getty Images)
Game 3 wasn't a matter of New York playing poorly. (Getty Images)

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"Couldn't score."

That's it, that was Rangers coach Alain Vigneault's assessment of what went wrong for the Rangers in Game 3 because he couldn't say they lost their lucky rabbit's foot. They just couldn't score.

After a somewhat sluggish start -- though a sluggish start that was mostly paralleled by the Kings as shots were 5-4 LA after 20 minutes -- the Rangers really turned it on. It wasn't until they fell into the 2-0 hole they put the Kings in for the first two games but they certainly woke up.

The Rangers were creating chances and plenty of them. They outshot LA 32-15 in the game. LA's skaters had 20 blocks, or eight more than Henrik Lundqvist stopped in the Rangers net. Total shot attempts were in New York's favor 59-33. As this graph from Extra Skater that charts unblocked shot attempts (Fenwick), a large reason why the discrepancy was so high resulted from the Kings taking a two-goal lead but nonetheless, the Rangers began throwing everything they had at LA.

And yet they just "couldn't score."

Certainly there were things that weren't going perfectly well, the Rangers' forecheck was not very strong in this game and much of the 5-on-5 game was gummed up when the game was still within reach -- just see the first period. But there weren't a lot of things they did wrong either.

Just look at how they played defensively and the three goals they surrendered. The first goal took a small deflection off the skate of Dan Girardi while he was on the ice and redirected, hitting Lundqvist on an exposed shoulder before going in with less than a second in the period. The second goal was on a Kings power play in which Jake Muzzin's shot from the point hit Martin St. Louis and deflected in. The third and final goal was a pass from Mike Richards that was defended perfectly by Ryan McDonagh, so perfectly that he blocked the pass and it hopped right back to Richards' stick for the goal.

That's not poor play or mistakes, that's poor puck luck.

That's what has to be just killing the Rangers right now, they aren't being soundly beaten by the Kings in this series but the series standing indicates they are. Their position almost feels undeserved as Henrik Lundqvist noted.

"We're down 3-0 and it feels like we could easily have at least two wins here, but it's not the case," the Rangers goalie said.

Undoubtedly, it has to be so incredibly frustrating for the Rangers. Three games now, three losses and in each game you could argue the Rangers were the better team for the majority of the games, or at least the more dangerous team.

Now comes the hard part, trying to not give up on a season that everybody else already has buried them in, trying to convince themselves they can still do something they've failed to do in three previous attempts; beat the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.

“Well you try to stay positive right now, but it's tough, it's really tough," Lundqvist said. "We are doing a lot good things, but you look at the goals and we put two in our own net and then just a tough play on the third one.

"At some point, you are going to need some puck luck and we don't have any right now. It feels like they have all of it. We always talk about how you have to earn that puck luck, but I think we are working really hard and doing a lot of good things but when they score goals like that when it feels like we are right there and doing the right things, obviously it's mentally challenging to try to overcome that first goal."

He's not wrong. It's what makes this so hard for the Rangers moving into Game 4 and keeping the mental fitness because there isn't really one thing you can point to and say this needs to be better. You get the chances the Rangers had in Game 3 and good things are bound to happen. It wasn't a matter of playing poorly.

They just "couldn't score."

 
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