NEW YORK – New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was subdued and downcast Tuesday, like most of his players, standing on the brink of elimination, peering grimly into the abyss.
“We’re down 3-0,” Vigneault said. “We’re all lacking sleep. This is tough. I didn’t expect my players today to be cheery and upbeat. We’re in the Stanley Cup Final and we’re down 3-0. You don’t get a lot of these opportunities.”
The Rangers are the 321st team in the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball to fall behind in a best-of-seven series by three games to none. On Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, they will start what they hope will be a long climb back against a Los Angeles Kings team that looks virtually unbeatable at this stage.
The odds of rallying from such a deficit to win a series are daunting: Only five of the previous 320 teams have managed to do so, 1.6 percent, according to whowins.com.
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It has happened four times in NHL history, including Toronto’s rally to win the 1942 Stanley Cup against Detroit.
Excluding the Rangers’ plight, 177 NHL teams have fallen behind three games to none. The four that rallied to win the series represent a 2.3 percent victory rate.
But all those are numbers, humbled by the raw dejection the Rangers could barely disguise Tuesday.
“I’m not going to lie to you. It’s pretty much impossible to be upbeat,” said forward Brad Richards. “Today’s a tough day. Your mind’s racing on a thousand different things, on what you can do differently. And on what could have been.”
Vigneault, in his first season as coach of the Rangers after previously coaching the Vancouver Canucks, was a cold-eyed realist.
“All the talk that we can have trying to spin this any way you want — 29 other teams would like to be in our spot, you know, we’ve played well, just need bounces — whatever talk you might use. At the end of the day, for us right now it’s about one game,” he said. “That’s as simple and logical and realistic as I can put it for you.
“We have to focus on one game, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Vigneault said he appreciated his players and their competitive nature.
“Everybody’s going to come out and say all the right things,” he said. “All that, like I mentioned, is just talk. What needs to happen is the actions on the ice. We’ve played some good hockey, but we haven’t found a way to win. That’s what we’ve got to do tomorrow.”