NEW YORK - After two home playoff losses, the New Jersey Devils didn't sugarcoat their predicament or try to fool anyone about the trouble they were in.
Yes, two teams in NHL history have come back to win series after falling behind 3-0. But these playoff-tested, champion-laden Devils knew that if two straight losses became three in their series with the New York Rangers, their postseason time would surely run out in the first round.
With the help of Rangers defenceman Marc Staal's skate, the Devils don't have to worry about it. A stirring 4-3 overtime win Sunday night made their series deficit 2-1 instead of the dreaded 3-0.
"In our heads you wouldn't say the series was over if we had lost," forward John Madden said. "At the same time, you can do the math.
"The probability of coming back from 3-0 is not good."
Madden took matters in his hands Sunday night. After New Jersey gave up the tying power-play goal less than a minute into the third period, the Devils got the game to overtime.
Two scoring chances were thwarted by the right post behind Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, so instead of going that route, Madden found a more potent deflection approach.
He tracked down a loose puck after a faceoff he lost, fired it in front of the net and registered the winner when it struck Staal's skate and bounced in.
Suddenly, the fear of 3-0 became a life-breathing 2-1 deficit. Still trailing, but so much better.
"That's what usually happens in overtime, those kind of goals," Devils forward Patrik Elias said. "We had a couple of great opportunities.
"Brian (Gionta) hit a post. I hit a post. But we stayed with it and got the lucky bounce. We worked hard and deserved it."
That sentiment was echoed by Rangers coach Tom Renney.
After players on both teams credited luck for New York's fortunate and timely goals that decided Games 1 and 2 in New Jersey, Renney bristled. He didn't deny that his team caught some breaks; he merely contended that hard work, smart play, and getting pucks on net are all things that create positive results.
From his point of view, the Devils did everything right in an overtime period in which they outshot the Rangers 5-1.
"I don't know if they took their game to another level," Renney said. "We didn't do what we needed to do in overtime initially.
"I think we were anxious to score, anxious to get the winning goal, and consequently I'm not sure our positioning was what it needed to be."
All that must improve in Game 4 on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET), or the series could easily be 2-2 heading back to New Jersey on Friday (7 p.m. ET).
The Rangers must shake off the thought that they were a goal away from that nearly choke-proof 3-0 lead just as the Devils fought off fears of such a daunting deficit.
"We knew it wasn't going to be an easy series," Rangers forward Ryan Callahan said. "We knew it wasn't going to be four straight.
"They have a good team over there. Come Wednesday, we have to come prepared and try to get a win."
Such prep work will take place Tuesday morning when the Rangers return to practice after a day off afforded by the two-day break between games.
As is often the case, time will be spent on figuring out how to be more disciplined to stay out of the penalty box. New York held the Devils to one power-play goal in nine chances during the first two games of the series, but yielded two man-advantage tallies in eight opportunities in Game 3.
The Rangers also scored two power-play goals in five chances, but giving the struggling Devils offence a chance to get jump-started that way could prove to be a problem.
Power plays spark offences, tire out penalty-killers, and keep skilled offensive players on the bench to get cooled off for long stretches.
The Devils scored only two goals in the first two games. With help from the power play they netted as many as three goals against Lundqvist for the first time in 11 games this season.
"This time around we got the bounces," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "The last two times at home, they went the Rangers' way.
"We did a great job of throwing pucks at the net and making Henrik's job a little harder."