New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault knows all too well that a 2-0 series deficit in the Stanley Cup final can be overcome.
After a pair of losses in overtime on the road to the Los Angeles Kings, Vigneault finds himself on the opposite end this time.
Three years ago, his Vancouver Canucks flew to Boston after a pair of close one-goal victories at home to open the 2011 final, but were swiftly grounded by two losses to the Bruins by a combined score of 12-1. Poof, the series was tied. Three games later, the Bruins celebrated a championship in Vancouver.
The 53-year-old head coach, who in his first year with the Rangers, has steered the Blueshirts to their first Stanley Cup final in two decades, will no doubt share his experience from 2011 before Game 3 at Madison Square Garden on Monday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET).
"You know, other than stats that you can throw at your guys," Vigneault said. "[Monday] is about as close as a must [win] game as I think you can have. Until you face elimination, that's as close as we can get.
"There are a lot of good things we're doing on the ice. There are a couple things we need to clean up that we're going to address tomorrow with our group. For the most part we've given ourselves a real good chance, and that's what we're going to try to do tomorrow."
The difficult part for the Rangers will be to mentally overcome the what ifs from the opening two games in Los Angeles. What if the Rangers could have held their 2-0 first-period lead in the series opener? What if they could have held their leads of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 in Game 2 on Saturday?
The Kings have not enjoyed a lead in the first two games. Yet, they lead the series.
"I think we played two good games over there," Rangers third-liner Mats Zuccarello said. "We didn't get the bounces in the OT. We've got to limit our mistakes. I think we're a confident group. I think we played the best hockey.
"I think we have to take with us that we played in our last game the best game. Even the first game we had more quality chances. Like I said, we've made mistakes. Sometimes it has cost us goals. But as a team, we're confident, we'll stick together. We have to win two at home to even the series."
The Rangers have won six of their 10 playoff games this spring at Madison Square Garden. Will the atmosphere in their home building help the Rangers cause?
"Obviously we'll have our fans, the best fans in the world," Zuccarello said. "But it's two good teams. I don't know how much it's going to mean. Hopefully, the fans are going to be behind us and we'll get a good boost out of that."
Besides what Vigneault went through with the Canucks in 2011, the Rangers themselves overcame a 3-1 series deficit in the second round to upend the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games last month. That was when Frances St. Louis, the mother of Rangers sniper Martin St. Louis, passed away unexpectedly at age 63.
Since that emotional time, the Rangers rallied to win seven of nine games before their back-to-back losses in Los Angeles.
"Our confidence is still there," Rangers third-line centre Derick Brassard said. "I think if we keep playing the same way, we have a great chance to win. It's far from over. We came back from 1-3 against Pittsburgh. We proved to ourselves that we can come back against some really good teams. I think we showed to ourselves that we can play with those guys.
"In both games, they win in overtime, it could have gone either way. I think we're pretty confident to come back here and we're pretty excited to play in front of our own fans.
"Obviously, we wanted to go there, steal at least one game," Brassard said. "But we're going to have to find a way to steal a game. I think the next game is the most important one.
"We never quit all season. We always showed some character. I think it's not going to be any different for this series. Like I said earlier, we showed to ourselves that we can play with those guys, that we can beat those guys. Tomorrow, I think it's going to be a big step for us just to go out there and get a big win."
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