The way things are going, this series might not head back to the West Coast. The Los Angeles Kings are withing touching distance of winning the Stanley Cup, beating the New York Rangers 3-0 to take a three game lead in the series after one heart-breaking goal from Jeff Carter in the first period and an extraordinary display from Jonathan Quick defending the goal.
It’s never easy playing the Rangers in Madison Square Garden, and for the first period the crowd was really into it, pushing the Rangers forward in a tense first period with only nine total shots at goal. Quick made one incredible save off of a close range Mats Zuccarello shot. It wasn’t his last incredible save that seemed to slowly eat at the confidence of Rangers players, beginning the evening thinking they just might have what it takes to start a turnaround in this series.
The Kings haven’t led in regular time in this series, until 0.7 seconds were left in the first period. Some bad defending from the Rangers left Jeff Carter completely alone in front of Henriq Lundqvist. The Swedish goalkeeper seemed to read the puck well, but it bounced off a skate and just went too far for him to reach. That goal from Carter, his 10th of the postseason, seemed to suck the air out of the fans in the stands, and some of the Rangers players on the ice.
The Kings took advantage of a Power Play early in the second period as Jake Muzzin put them two goals in front, but the Rangers kept coming back only to be thwarted by Quick, who is reliving his form from two years ago, when he played a huge part in the Kings’ triumphant 2012 Stanley Cup finals. One on of those blitzes, four Rangers players stayed up instead of chasing down the counter attack, which resulted in Mike Richards scoring the third of the game, another one that bounces off a Rangers skate.
The New York Rangers kept coming in the third period, but without the fire and belief of the previous minutes. Yes, the Kings have been enjoying all the bounces in this series, but the Rangers aren’t scoring and taking advantages of the opportunities they’re getting – they were 0-for-6 on Power Play opportunities, something everyone knew was going to be a very big factor in the decision between these two teams.
This Kings team is special. They keep coming back – whether it’s from being behind in a series or games. This was supposed to be the game the Rangers finally don’t drop a lead. Instead, they got shut out on their home ice. This Kings team is special – winning seven elimination games, winning three game 7’s and coming back from two goals down to start the game three consecutive times before completely asserting their dominance away from home thanks to a unique performance from Jonathan Quick.
The fans that watched the game on a big screen on a sunny California afternoon might not have a chance to actually see the Kings in action this season. Coming back from two games down is one thing, but three? That is often a confidence killer, and the Rangers, despite some resolute moments throughout these playoffs, seem to be on the brink of giving up hope if it hasn’t been lost already.
Sometimes it’s not about the tactics and plan. It comes to execution – something the Rangers aren’t doing – not on offense and not on defense. The Kings had a gameplan they carried out flawlessly, regardless of whether or not their pucks bounced the right way or not. It takes luck, skill, heart and discipline to win a Stanley Cup, which might fall into the Kings’ lap with a sweep after the longest playoff anyone has ever been through.