By Mary Walsh
After a 3-0 win in New York, the Los Angeles Kings are the verge of sweeping the New York Rangers out of the the Stanley Cup Final. Two seasons ago, they were in the same position against the New Jersey Devils. They also started that series by winning two overtime games, then winning the third with a shutout. The Devils rallied and won the next two to stretch the series to six games.
Of being up three games to none, Justin Williams said:
Just because you’re leading a series doesn’t mean that you’ve won anything.
The game showed improvement in some areas for the Kings. They skipped the sluggish first period and falling behind early. They showed the defensive prowess they are known for. Jonathan Quick turned in an impressive 32 save shutout in his first game at Madison Square Garden.
Of the mood in the Kings’ room, Williams said:
It’s all business in there. Certainly right now, yeah, we’re happy, we’re up three-nothing. But we know as good as anyone that three-nothing doesn’t mean four and the fourth one’s the hardest and we’re going to be ready for it.
Being ready might have to include generating more offense. The Kings were dangerously outshot, testing their goaltender and defensive resilience. In the second period the Rangers outshot the Kings 17-8, in the third 11-2.
A 3-0 shutout might look like an about-face from the two games they won in overtime, but this game should have been closer on the scoreboard than it was. Two of the Kings goals relied on unlucky bounces off of Rangers players.
The Rangers have to be feeling frustration now, and there was one penalty that could well be a focal point of that frustration. At 14:02 of the third period, the Rangers’ Chris Kreider was called for goalie interference, after pushing Drew Doughty in the direction of Jonathan Quick. Doughty went in to Quick and took him down, but no goal, no good scoring chance resulted.
It was not a completely insane call, but it was wildly inconsistent. It made the non-call against Dwight King even more grotesque, as he scored a goal by falling on Henrik Lundqvist in Game Two. Granted, the calls were not made by the same referees, but it is likely to be a sore point.
The first period was noteworthy for two reasons: the Kings scored first, which is so infrequent that it seemed like a mistake. Additionally, the NHL server was down for most of the period so there were no stats available. Once the server came back up, the officials finally made a call, a coincidence no doubt. The call went for New York but they did not score with the man advantage.
Though the penalty took up most of the time remaining in the period, Los Angeles’ Jeff Carter still managed to squeak an even strength goal in before the period ended. Justin Williams found him in the slot, where Carter put a quick wrist shot past Lundqvist. The shot appeared to go off of Dan Girardi’s skate and the tip of Henrik Lundqvist’s glove. It was an auspicious start for the Kings and another point for Justin Williams.
The second period was littered with penalties. They were called at a rate of about one every three and a half minutes, three against each team. Only the Kings converted, and they only did so once.
Starting with a lead did not put the Kings off their rhythm. As usual, they scored early in the second period again, this time with the help of a power play, giving them a 2-0 lead. This put them doubly in unfamiliar territory, since it is their habit to be on the other side of the two goal lead before they win.
The goal was a little later than usual, a power play goal made possible by Marc Staal being called for high-sticking. The call may have been overdue, as other players, including Staal, had gotten away with some high-sticks already. It took the Kings just under a minute to score. Jake Muzzin threw one in from the point while Jeff Carter screened Lundqvist. New York’s Martin St. Louis tried to block the shot but only deflected it around his goaltender.
The third Los Angeles goal came off a two on one of Trevor Lewis and Mike Richards versus Ryan McDonagh. Richards tried to pas the puck but it went off of McDonagh and came back to Richards. By then, he had the shot and he took it.
The Rangers entered the third period trailing by three, having gone 0-7 in the playoffs when trailing after two periods. That had to be as discouraging as the three goal deficit.
The Rangers did make one change late in the second: head coach Alain Vigneault put Rick Nash on the power play. He started by crashing the net, something the Rangers have not done enough of through the series. The collision did little more than aggravate Quick, who gave Nash a glove to the head for his trouble.
Nash was again on the ice for the Rangers power play early in the third period. The power play as a whole was ineffective, mostly taken up by a game of keep away by the Kings.
Henrik Lundqvist made 12 saves for New York. Derick Brassard led the Rangers in shots with five. Ryan McDonagh and Marc Stall each blocked two shots and no Ranger blocked more, but there were not very many to block. McDonagh led the team in time on ice with 26:56.
Jeff Carter led the Kings in shots with four, Jake Muzzin led in blocked shots with four, and Drew Doughty led in time on ice with 26:03.
Game Four will be played Wednesday in New York at 5:00 PT.