MIAMI — Where do you look for belief when there doesn’t seem to be any? How do you claim confidence when the words feel hollow even as they leave your lips? Where do you find resilience when the world is laughing at your chances?
When you know even your most loyal fans have likely resigned themselves to reality, not allowing hope in, so that the inevitable might hurt a little less?
This was the mountain facing the humbled, shell-shocked, embarrassed Florida Panthers entering Game 4 down 3-0 in Tampa Monday night, staring at elimination, needing to somehow win four in a row.
And needing to do it against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the two-time reigning NHL champions and their nemesis, against whom the Cats had managed a meager one goal in each of three losses.
“It looks bleak,” Florida coach Andrew Brunette had admitted.
Bleak might have been the glass half full.
In league history only four hockey teams of 201 down 3-0 in the playoffs, or 2%, have climbed that mountain looming over the Panthers.
It could have been the beginning of a fairy tale, this.
Instead it was real life.
The Panthers lost valiantly, if that is any consolation. Which it isn’t.