NEW YORK – This Stanley Cup final is beginning to look like a Quick series.
Thanks to 32 saves from goaltender Jonathan Quick, the Los Angeles Kings beat the New York Rangers 3-0 in Game 3 Monday night to take a commanding three games to none lead and move within one victory of hoisting the Cup.
“He was our cornerstone,” Kings winger Marian Gaborik said of Quick. “Our penalty kill was great and he was our best penalty-killer.”
Quick was masterful in his poise and in his reflexes to record his second shutout of these playoffs and the ninth of his NHL career in the post-season. The native of nearby Milford, Conn., who grew up a Rangers fan, managed to do it in his first game at Madison Square Garden, which made it even more memorable.
“He’s always our backbone,” Kings defenceman Drew Doughty said.
To supplement Quick, the Kings got goals from Jeff Carter, Jake Muzzin and Mike Richards and were in control all night despite being outshot 32-15. New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped 12 shots, but he couldn’t do anything about his counterpart following the lead of his childhood idol, Mike Richter, who helped the Rangers win the Cup 20 years ago.
Complete with the memory of Game’s 1 and 2 – both overtime losses – the Rangers reflected confidence despite their series deficit. Pre-game festivities leading to the 8:37 p.m. start included a motivational montage featuring Liam Neeson, and the home team took the ice at the Garden to the strains of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”
John Amirante’s rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” accompanied by frenzied towel waving from the sellout crowd, served up the first Cup final game in this building since the Rangers won it all on June 14, 1994, by beating the Vancouver Canucks. That ended the franchise’s 54-year championship drought.
After the Rangers’ Game 3 loss, they got one step closer to extending their current drought beyond 20 years. And the Kings moved to the verge of their second title in three seasons.
The first period lacked quality chances at both ends, but Quick was there to stifle the Rangers’ very best at the 12:37 mark. Mats Zuccarello had the puck in the crease with an open net, but Quick managed to get his stick on it after the shot hit the post.
“Give them credit,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “They found a way to put the puck past our real good goaltender and we couldn’t do it.”
Late in the first, the Kings got started on their 15th victory of the playoffs with a goal that stunned the crowd along with Lundqvist and the Rangers.
With the final seconds ticking away towards intermission, Carter flicked the puck on net with a shot that hit Dan Girardi’s skate and fluttered in off Lundqvist’s glove. The clock showed 0:00 as the Kings celebrated their first lead of the series, and on review the puck crossed the goal line with 0.7 seconds left.
That dampened the enthusiasm of a crowd that included more than a few people who paid a premium to attend. Tickets on the secondary market were going for over US$1,000.
As their realistic chances of making it a series hung in the balance, the Rangers didn’t put together a season-saving performance. After falling behind, New York picked up two straight high-sticking penalties that could have been worse had defenceman Marc Staal not gotten away with an extra one on Kings captain Dustin Brown.
Staal’s offensive-zone high-sticking penalty that did get called led to the Kings’ second goal of the night. With Martin St. Louis trying to get his body in front of Muzzin’s shot from the point, the puck instead went off the Rangers winger and past Lundqvist 4:17 into the second period.
Fans tried to generate some noise off the face-off, and the Rangers followed with plenty of chances to get back into the game. The power-play unit that entered the night 1-for-8 in the series managed some sustained pressure but came up empty thanks to Quick’s brilliance.
The 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner’s best save of Game 3 came just after a New York power play expired, when he got his stick on what should have been a gimme goal for Derick Brassard at the side of the net.
While Quick made saves look easy, Lundqvist got a break. The Kings didn’t manage a shot on net for more than nine minutes in the second period.
When they got back on track, it didn’t take long to suck the rest of the air out of the Garden. With Trevor Lewis accompanying him on a two-on-one rush, Richards took an initial shot that hit Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh, and the Kings forward buried the second offering to make it 3-0 at 17:14.
A record 15 multi-goal comebacks have meant no lead is safe in these playoffs. But Quick’s stellar play ensured this would not be the 16th.
© The Canadian Press, 2014