By IRA PODELL, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Rangers know they will have the raucous Madison Square Garden crowd on their side in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals.
The whistle and the bounces? That is a whole other story.
When the Rangers analyze their two overtime losses to the Kings in Los Angeles, they likely will be happy about much of them — other than the result, of course.
New York hasn't trailed for one second in the nine regulation periods played in the championship round, yet the Rangers return home in an 0-2 hole.
They led by two early in their 3-2 single overtime loss in Game 1 and then had three two-goal edges in Game 2, only to fall 5-4 in double overtime Saturday night.
"We played two good games," forward Mats Zuccarello said Sunday after the Rangers returned to New York. "We didn't get the bounces in OT. We've got to limit our mistakes. I think we're a confident group. I think we played the best hockey.
"We'll have our fans, the best fans in the world, 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."
The starts were good, the middles provided success, too. The third periods and overtimes have been the difference, and that is what matters. New York was outshot 20-3 in the third period of Game 1 and outscored 2-0 in the final regulation frame of Game 2.
"We're not proud of the way we're starting games," Kings forward Justin Williams said. "We find ourselves in the same situation, regurgitating the same mumbo-jumbo every time. We're in a results-oriented league. The results are we're up 2-0. I don't care how we got here."
Game 3 is Monday night, and is as close to a must-win contest for the Rangers as can be at the Garden, where they are 6-4 in these playoffs.
"Our guys are going to be real focused," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We need to hold serve. We're back in our building. We've played some good hockey. We might feel that we deserve a better outcome than what we have, but it doesn't matter.
"At the end of the day we've got to take care of business, and that's what we're going to do."
The resilient Kings are doing to the Rangers what they did to the Sharks, Ducks and defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks before them.
If New York wants to avoid the head-shaking those clubs endured after being eliminated in seven games, the story line must change quickly Monday.
It will be one of the hottest tickets at the Garden in years, but the Rangers' first trip to the finals in two decades could be over in a hurry if their finishes don't soon match their beginnings.
"It's hockey. It's not always fair," forward Chris Kreider said.
The Rangers have jumped to 2-0 leads in the first period in each game, but Los Angeles never gives up or gives in. New York was 10-0 in these playoffs when entering the third with a lead. The Kings changed that Saturday when they turned a 4-2 deficit into a tie and then won 10:26 into double overtime.
"I think everyone was done with the game this morning. It's all about the next game," Zuccarello said. "Most important thing is to look forward."
The Kings are opportunistic, and they used a favorable non-call to spark their Game 2 comeback.
The Rangers balked loudly at Dwight King's goal that made it 4-3 at 1:58, claiming it shouldn't have counted because King prevented goalie Henrik Lundqvist from making a save. New York was penalized for goalie interference earlier when the puck wasn't in the area of Jonathan Quick's crease.
King was struck by Matt Greene's hard drive that found the net and fell onto Lundqvist. Los Angeles gained momentum, tied it on former Rangers forward Marian Gaborik's NHL-leading 13th goal of the playoffs, and claimed its 2-0 series edge on captain Dustin Brown's tally.