Over the course of five days and 3,000 miles, the Rangers spoke of being competitive with the Kings and feeling like victims of misfortune. Then the puck was dropped for Game 3, and reality reared its head.
The result of the first Stanley Cup Final game in New York City since June 14, 1994, was a 3-0 loss to the Kings Monday night at the Garden.
The Rangers trail the best-of-seven series, 3-0. Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday night at 8 p.m.
Jeff Carter, Jake Muzzin and Mike Richards scored for the Kings. Jonathan Quick made 32 saves to earn the shutout.
"It was his best game of the series," Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said of Quick.
In their history, the Rangers have been swept twice in the Stanley Cup Final, by Boston in 1929 and Toronto in 1932.
"This is not how we pictured our Stanley Cup Final experience, being down 3-0," Dan Girardi said.
Only four teams in NHL history have come back to win a series after trailing 0-3: the 1942 Maple Leafs, the 1975 Islanders, the 2010 Flyers and the 2014 Kings.
The 1942 Leafs are the only team in NHL history to win the Cup after trailing 0-3.
"We were down 3-1 against Pittsburgh [in the Metropolitan Division Final] and we were able [to rip off] five wins in a row," Girardi said. "We know what we have to do, and I said it 10 times already but we just have to win one game. It doesn't matter [that] we're down 3-0. [Win] one game, [take the series] back to L.A. and see what happens."
Of course, it is easier said than done, as the Kings are a more complete team than any the Rangers have played in this playoff season. After the Kings took the lead in Game 3, the Rangers found little room to skate, and when there was an opportunity to shoot, Quick's speed and athleticism took away left little room in which to take aim. The Rangers had a decided advantage in shots on goal (32-15) and attempted shots (59-33).
"We grind away and gradually take over games," Dustin Brown said. "We are a very good team when we get ahead."
For all intents and purposes, the game was decided by Carter’s goal with seven-tenths of a second left in the first to make it 1-0. On the play, Carter came down the slot as John Moore headed toward the half wall while Girardi went down to take away the pass. The shot deflected off Girardi's skate past Lundqvist.
"It just nicks off the heel of my blade," Girardi said. "That's exactly how the series is going for us right now — a couple bad bounces."
By the end of the second period, silence grew to anger as the Kings had a 3-0 lead.
Jake Muzzin increased the lead to 4:17 into the second with a power-play goal, beating Lundqvist from the point. Mike Richards' goal at 2:46 made it 3-0. Richards came in on a 2-on-1 looking to pass, but when Ryan McDonagh blocked the pass, the puck came back to Richards, who buried a quick shot before punching the glass behind the Eighth Avenue goal in celebration.
"We put two in our net," said Henrik Lundqvist, who was charged with three goals on 15 shots. "You are going to need some puck luck and we don't have any right now. It feels like they have all of it."
But a case can be made the Kings have taken advantage of opportunities in the series while the Rangers have been unable to do so. In Game 3, the Rangers were 0-for-6 on the power play, and are 1-for-14 in the series.
The lack of tangible results with the man advantage prompted Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault to reinsert Rick Nash on the power play. Nash had one shot on goal in 2:18 of power play time. Over the course of the game, Nash attempted eight shots in 16:24.
"I liked his effort level," Vigneault said. "He battled real hard like he's done through the playoffs. [He] doesn't have a lot to show for it, but he's competing hard. I just wanted to see if we couldn't throw a different look at them.
"You've got to finish in this game. It's a performance-oriented business, [and the] power play had some looks but it didn't finish."
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.