NEW YORK – After a disappointing 3-0 loss against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, it didn't take long for New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's frustration to show.
His postgame scrum started with a simple question: "What happened?" a reporter asked.
Whether it was the phrasing or the tone of the query that bothered him, Lundqvist paused angrily before requesting another question.
"A better question," he said.
It wasn't the first time Monday the Rangers were at a loss for answers on a night that ended with them facing a 3-0 series deficit in the best-of-7 series.
One thing is for certain: The Rangers believe they deserve better.
"You try to stay positive right now, but it's tough. It's really tough. We're doing a lot of good things, but when you look at the goals, we put two in our own net and then a tough play on the third one," Lundqvist said. "At some point, you're going to need some puck luck, and we don't have any right now. It feels like they have all of it. You always talk about how you have to earn that puck luck, but I think we worked really hard; we're doing a lot of good things."
Entering Game 3 at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers were adamant that they had played well enough to win at least one of the two games in Los Angeles, each of which they dropped in overtime. They played the Kings even through much of the first period Monday before Jeff Carter's shot deflected off defenseman Dan Girardi and beat Lundqvist with 0.8 seconds remaining.
"It was a tough break, obviously," New York defenseman Anton Stralman said. "At the same time, I didn't think we buried our heads in the sand. We came out in the second period strong and got a lot of shots on [Kings goaltender Jonathan] Quick and played well. It was a timely goal for them. Other than that, I didn't think we needed to change our game. We worked hard."
The Rangers played some of their best hockey after Jake Muzzin's point shot on the power play deflected off forward Martin St. Louis and past Lundqvist to give the Kings a 2-0 lead 4:17 into the second. Aided by two power plays, the Rangers went on a run in which they outshot the Kings 13-1 immediately following Muzzin's goal. But all they got for their efforts was one save after another by Quick.
With Mike Richards and Trevor Lewis converging on a 2-on-1 rush, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh made the right defensive play, blocking a cross-ice pass with his stick. But rather than bounce harmlessly away after McDonagh's block, the puck slid right back onto the stick of Richards, who put the puck into a mostly empty net to give Los Angeles a 3-0 lead with 2:46 remaining in the second.
It was one more example of a timely bounce going against the Rangers.
"I think everyone in here is working their [butt] off for the team, but we didn't get the right bounces today," Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello said. "It's really tough right now; you feel like you played a good game, but it doesn't really matter when you lose."
All that matters right now is that the Rangers must overcome a 3-0 series lead in the Cup Final. Only the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs have done that in NHL history.
The long climb for the Rangers starts with Game 4 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Rangers have almost two full days to take their frustration and befuddlement and turn it into hope.
"It doesn't matter what you think you deserve out there, you just have to find a way to win games,” Lundqvist said. “That's what they've been doing. I can sit here and say we're playing really well, but in the end it's about finding ways to win. We haven't done that.
"I'm just extremely disappointed that we're in this hole. We have to regroup; it's not over. We're looking at getting the next game. That’s all we're thinking about right now, trying to get that win."