After two great games, Game 3 was a big dud in the Big Apple

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NEW YORK — It was a little over halfway through the second period when a fan stood up and bellowed – as only a New York sports fan can really bellow – “Do something!”

The fan was bellowing at the hometown Rangers, who to be fair hadn’t exactly done nothing to that point. They just hadn’t scored, unlike the Los Angeles Kings, who’d done so twice.

Not long after the bellow, the Kings took off on an odd-man rush and Mike Richards made it 3-0. The game was all but over. The series, by extension, was on the brink of ending, too.

Safe to say — and we really do hate to say it — but after two wildly entertaining games to start the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, the third one was a big dud in the Big Apple.

Not to the Kings or their fans, of course – for them, the 3-0 shutout win left them one victory from their second title in three years.

But certainly to the Ranger faithful, who hadn’t witnessed a Cup final game at MSG since June 14, 1994, when the Original Six club celebrated its first championship since 1940. The sellout crowd did its best tonight, but there was little to cheer for, especially compared to what Kings fans were treated to at Staples Center.

And also, presumably, to all the hockey fans with no real rooting interest, as the specter of the first Cup sweep since 1998 looms. This could’ve been such a great series, based on what we saw in Games 1 and 2. And while we suppose it still could be, it could also be over in two days.

“It’s pretty boring, nothing flashy, but we’ll take it,” said Anze Kopitar. “We realize that this kind of hockey got us here, and it’s going to take us from here on out. We just got to make sure we keep playing like that.”

Meanwhile, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist admitted that pessimism was getting difficult to stave off.

“You try to stay positive right now, but it’s tough,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough. I think we’re doing a lot of good things but when you look at the goals, you know, we put two in our net and just a tough play on the third one. At some point you’re going to have to need some puck luck and we don’t have any right now. It feels like they have all of it.”

New York outshot Los Angeles by a wide margin in Game 3 (32-15), and the Rangers indeed had their chances. But Jonathan Quick was spectacular when needed in the Kings’ net, and he was solid the rest of the time.

“I think that was his best game of the playoffs,” said Drew Doughty. “He played fantastic for us tonight. He made some big saves, saves he had no business making. His rebound control was good, his puck-handling was good, everything about his game tonight was great and he was a big reason why he won.”

“Well, he was obviously the best player on the ice tonight,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “But, you know, we got sort of a bad rush read on the first. We deflect in our net. Same thing happened in the second goal. On the third goal we played a two-on-one right, take the pass, goes right back on their stick. Give them credit. They found a way to put the puck past a real good goaltender, and we couldn’t do it.”

Down 3-0 and facing elimination, the Rangers had more important things to think about than tonight’s disappointed crowd, which included celebrities like Jimmy Fallon, Robert De Niro and Bryan Cranston, the latter of whom received one of the loudest ovations of the night when he was shown on the video board. (Which said a lot about how things went for the home side.)

“It’s not about that,” said Anton Stralman. “It’s about winning hockey games. Right now, it’s not bouncing our way, obviously. It’s a bit frustrating, but at the same time, it’s another game Wednesday. … It’s not over. We put up a winning streak these playoffs already. We aim to do the same thing again. We have to start with one.”

Start with one. Then somehow get another on the road. Then come home and get another. Then it’s a Game 7, where anything can happen. Just ask the Kings. (Also, the Sharks.)

And don’t forget that New York has had its own big comeback this postseason, fighting back to beat Pittsburgh in the second round after trailing 3-1.

“We’ll see,” said Ryan McDonagh. “We’ve gotten out of deficits before. We believe in each other in here. We’re just going to keep preparing the same way and come out with everything we’ve got. We’ve got nothing to save it for now.”

The reality, though, is that only one team, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the Stanley Cup Final.

At the very least, can the Rangers make it interesting?

Streit on Canadiens return: ‘Montreal always had a special place in my heart’

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Whether he’s Andrei Markov‘s replacement or a depth addition, the bottom line is that Mark Streit is slated for his second run with the Montreal Canadiens.

Streit, 39, would be justified in feeling like this signing could really tie his career in a nice bow.

MORE: Canadiens sign Streit

(Amusingly for everyone beyond his accountant, with a reported $700K cap hit for 2017-18, Streit is drawing almost the exact same salary as he did from the start; Streit received $600K in 2006-07 and 2007-08, according to Cap Friendly/Cap Geek.)

Back in 2004, the Canadiens drafted him … barely. He was a ninth-round pick, going 262nd overall in 2004.*

All things considered, Streit jumped to the NHL remarkably quickly, playing more than half a season in 2005-06. He would bounce from the Canadiens to the Islanders, Flyers, Penguins, and now back to Montreal. Despite him pretty well-traveled, the Swiss-born blueliner feels most at home with the Habs, as he told the team website.

“Montreal always had a special place in my heart because I started there,” Streit said. “One thing I really always missed was playing at the Bell Centre. It’s a unique rink with unique fans and a unique atmosphere. If you get the chance to play in front of them every night – with the atmosphere and the life in the city – I think it’s very motivating.”

Streit acknowledged the pressure that comes with playing there, and he’d certainly feel some if Canadiens fans are expecting a player who struggled to even crack the Pittsburgh Penguins’ postseason lineup to replace Markov.

Considering his $700K cap hit, Canadiens fans should keep expectations reasonable, especially since Streit tends to really blossom when people don’t expect much from him.

* – In case you’re wondering, that was a respectable ninth round. Danniel Winnik (717 games played, 265th overall), Grant Clitsome (205 GP, 271), Adam Cracknell (203, 279), and Jannik Hansen (580 GP, 287) all made solid careers for themselves. Not bad for guys who were drafted in rounds that wouldn’t even take place today.

Canada would consider Doan, Iginla for 2018 Winter Olympics

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When discussing the construction of Canada’s possible roster heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics, Sean Burke can be almost frustratingly coy. Still, in leaving virtually every available avenue at least conceivably open, he leaves room for some fascinating scenarios.

It might be tough to top this one discussed on TSN’s Overdrive 1050: if NHL teams pass on signing Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan, perhaps the Olympics could be their swan song?

Yes, there are quite a few “ifs” involved, but it’s an intriguing thought during the dog days of the hockey summer.

Burke likely presented more realistic possibilities in acknowledging that professional players plying their trade in Europe, particularly the KHL, might be the greatest source for talent.

“Most of our players will be guys that come from Europe playing in the KHL,” Burke said to TSN’s Overdrive 1050.

When pondering possible entries, recent international tournaments could be helpful.

Looking at Canada’s 2016 Deutschland Cup roster and who they’re sending to the 2017 Sochi Open, NHL castoffs such as Derek Roy, Gilbert Brule, Nigel Dawes, Andrew Ebbett, Chris Lee, and Mason Raymond all seem likely logical choices. College players such as Cale Makar make things more complicated – both for Canada and the U.S. – as well.

In a separate interview with TSN, Burke noted that he would rather not supply specific names himself. Even in being vague, he provided an additional interesting detail: upcoming tournaments may illuminate what Canada lacks on its roster as much as who could have a leg-up on making the team.

And, if nothing else, they’ll get a good look at some players through a rigorous process.

Wow.

That notion makes you wonder if AHL players will be at a significant disadvantage to make both Team Canada and the United States rosters. As the Associated Press notes, AHL teams look poised to loan certain players, but only for a window of Feb. 5-26.

Burke notes that he’ll want a significant chunk of his roster more or less settled around December, and he already pointed to a preference for those who are playing in Europe.

Now, that doesn’t mean Canada or the U.S. will ignore an obvious AHL talent – if available – yet it sounds like those players would face an uphill battle to making the 2018 Winter Olympics.

That said, a lot can change, especially considering how often injuries can throw a wrench in things.

As much as we’d all love to watch a “best-on-best” tournament featuring NHL players, the alternative is also intriguing: seeing how different teams construct rosters from a variety of other leagues/resources.

And, hey, it could be awfully fun to see the likes of Iginla and/or Doan leading a motley crew of young players and former NHLers. Such a thought might even get Doan to admit that he was out of bounds in blaspheming “Miracle.”

Zibanejad jumps at opportunity to be Rangers’ No. 1 center

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It’s reasonable to assume that the New York Rangers were comfortable trading Derek Stepan in part because they believed Mika Zibanejad could step into the No. 1 center role.

That puts a lot of pressure on Zibanejad, who’s never been the top pivot on an NHL team before. If that wasn’t enough, now he’ll need to justify the first big contract of his career (seeing his cap hit rise from $2.625 million to $5.35 million).

MORE: Rangers lock up Zibanejad for five years

At least he isn’t oblivious to this challenge, and as the Rangers website notes, he’s actually super happy* to raise the stakes.

“I think even before signing, seeing Derek being traded was a little bit of an alert to me that I might get a chance to play a bigger role,” Zibanejad said. “As a player, you always want more responsibility and a bigger role. It’s something that I’m working really hard to make sure that I’m … taking advantage of the chance I’m getting.”

Stepan drew criticism – arguably unfair criticism – from Rangers fans for not being quite the No. 1 center many of them wanted, so it will be interesting to see how Zibanejad handles the challenge/burden.

If you were to grade his first season with the Rangers, you might be tempted to hand him an “Incomplete.”

Injuries really limited him for much of 2016-17, but when he played, he was solid, scoring 14 goals and 37 points in 56 games. Zibanejad had a flair for the dramatic, too.

Still, in full seasons, Zibanejad’s produced nice-but-unspectacular numbers. Two straight 20+ goal seasons to finish his Senators days were helpful, but many of his stats more or less fell in line with Stepan’s production.

Now, at 24, it’s reasonable to believe that Zibanejad’s best days are in front of him. It’s also true that, while he’s received nice opportunities to succeed, he wasn’t quite getting those top-line reps that Stepan received.

In all likelihood, it will come down to expectations. If Rangers fans want Zibanejad to produce at a level far exceeding Stepan, they might be disappointed; the bar for a successful season by most forwards’ standards has changed in the NHL, and Stepan’s mostly made the grade. On the other hand, if expectations are kept in check, Zibanejad could be a very nice fit for the Rangers.

Though he might miss the Derick Brassard comparisons now that the measuring stick changed to Derek Stepan.

* – Seriously, the guy said “super happy” a lot.

Yandle is happy Tallon is back running the Panthers

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It’s that time.

We’re approaching August, which means that the deluge of hockey optimism is really headed our way.

Players on teams that missed the playoffs – sometimes badly – will fill notebooks with quotes about how excited they are about next season. Guys whose past seasons were riddled by injuries will say that they’re in the best shape of their lives.

Now, look, there’s nothing wrong with that. And, hey, some of those players will almost certainly end up being right. Sometimes they provide some substance beyond the blindly positive comments.

That’s not really the interesting part of Keith Yandle‘s gushing comments about the Florida Panthers, via NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. Nope, it’s interesting because he’s praising GM Dale Tallon regaining his post.

“Having Dale back in charge, I think that was the main thing that got everyone going,” Yandle said. “You sense the power over the locker room that Dale can have. It’s such a positive thing when you have a guy like Dale Tallon. Everyone respects him and everything he does for the team. Going into the season knowing he has our back, he has the team, and obviously that he hired great coaches too, it’s a great thing.”

Yandle’s enthusiasm regarding Tallon is interesting because, frankly, Yandle seems like he was part of the batch of analytics-driven signings.

Without knowing for sure, Yandle seems like the sort of defenseman “old-school-types” might not like. There were rumblings that he refused to waive his NMC for the expansion draft, only fueling thoughts that the very executive he’s praising might have wanted him out.

Tallon’s already done work to walk back certain moves from that not-so-old-regime, as he engineered the moves to send not just Jonathan Marchessault but also Reilly Smith to the Vegas Golden Knights. There were also rumors that the Panthers were shopping Jason Demers, possibly more than once.

Now, it’s possible that Yandle could be excited about the direction of the team, even if said team might prefer that he was playing elsewhere. Still, it’s an amusing note amid a fairly typical round of optimistic quotes.

(Yandle does make some solid points about why 2017-18 could be better, by the way.)