The New York Rangers are in a tight spot. Vying for their first Stanley Cup since 1994, the team finds itself in a 2-0 hole to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. The Rangers have had two-goal leads three times in two games, and watched all of them disappear. They return to Madison Square Garden on Monday night hoping to claw their way back into the series. But, they do so with a few gripes about Game 2 this past Saturday night.
With the Rangers sitting on a 4-2 lead, the Kings scored a goal just two minutes into the third after Dwight King tipped the puck past goalie Henrik Lundqvist. However, replays showed King significantly impeding Lundqvist’s chances of stopping the shot. The refs felt otherwise, as no whistle was blown. For reasons obvious, New York’s netminder doesn’t agree with what happened.
“I’m extremely disappointed on that call or non-call,” Lundqvist said. “They got to be consistent with that rule. We, in the second period get called for a penalty and the puck is not even there. They score a goal and I can’t even move.
“[The ref] said the puck had already passed me. I don’t buy it. That’s a wrist shot, that I’m just going to reach out for and I can’t move. It’s a different game after that. It’s such an important play in the game.”
On top of this debatable non-call, the Kings also appeared to have dodged a delay of game penalty in double overtime, as the puck was cleared over the glass, but the refs claimed it was deflected. Less than a minute later, L.A. scored the game-winning goal.
With the Rangers facing a must-win game on Monday night, will they be able to take the ice without these controversial moments in the back of their minds?
Well, obviously, they need to. However, it’s way easier to say “forget it, let’s move on to the next game” than it is to actually do so. When you’re just four wins away from a Stanley Cup, you hardly want to lose a game due to some questionable non-calls. But that’s where the Rangers sit, and if they want to take advantage of home ice and even this series, they need to do whatever they can to move past Saturday night.
Make no mistake, each non-call was very questionable. And for all we know, Game 2 could’ve given the Kings all the fuel they need to finish off New York. This will certainly be the case if the Rangers continue to dwell on what happened. If they spend the entirety of Game 3 thinking this series should be tied, the lack of focus could bite them in a big way. Lundqvist can keep coming back to the Game 2 goal all he wants, but if he’s not mentally sharp on Monday night, he may end up dealing with plenty more Kings goals to think about from here on out.
Again, this is very much an easier-said-than-done situation. Telling someone to get over a bad call is simple when you’re merely watching the game from home. However, put yourself in the Rangers’ skates and you’ve got an entirely different situation.
Here you have a team who, if you ask them, shouldn’t be down 0-2. They take the ice knowing they essentially have to win tonight, but in their opinion this shouldn’t be the case. It should be 1-1, at least in the minds of everyone on New York’s roster. Now factor in what would happen if the Kings take a big lead tonight; if the Rangers start looking at an 0-3 series hole instead of 1-2. Doesn’t sound too easy to deal with.
New York is far from out of this final round, but the Rangers aren’t close to winning it yet either. If they want back into the series, they need to have a short memory. But, if they can’t shake Saturday night’s non-calls and lose on Monday night, it could be the final blow to their Cup hopes.