Photo credit: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports
It’s been a very up and down postseason for the LA Kings and star goaltender Jonathan Quick. The entire 2014 playoffs have been defined by flukey goals and weird bounces. Monday night was no exception as Quick played his best game of the playoffs, turning aside all 32 of the New York Rangers‘ shots. Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, Henrik Lundqvist was subjected to misfortune as two pucks deflected in off his own teammates and the third one deflected off Ryan McDonagh right back to Mike Richards before Lundqvist could react and get over in time to make the save. But let’s start from the beginning.
Both the Kings and the Rangers got off to a strong start, though neither goalie was tested much and neither team registered many scoring chances. Jeff Carter was able to capitalize on an opportunity with one second left on the clock when the puck deflected off Dan Girardi‘s skate past a helpless Lundqvist who could do nothing. Despite the goal, all in all, it was a pretty evenly played period.
The Kings got into a little bit of penalty trouble here as they gave the Rangers three power plays, almost in a row. However, New York matched LA’s discipline by taking three penalties of their own. Jake Muzzin scored on the Kings’ second power play of the period when Marc Staal got called for high sticking. On the kill, Martin St. Louis got a piece of Muzzin’s shot, enough to redirect the puck past his goaltender who was also being screened by Carter.
Richards’s goal came with just under three minutes left in the period.
For his part, Quick stopped all 17 shots the Rangers threw at him, including robbing Derick Brassard twice in a row – once with his toe and then with his paddle.
Seven seconds in, Chris Kreider broke in alone, but was once again stoned by Quick. There was a particularly hilarious sequence in the middle period just after a Kings power play had expired where Lundqvist missed the initial save and the Kings had an empty net opportunity. With a pile of bodies in the crease, Girardi dove face first onto the ice and kept it out with his skate. As one fellow TPP writer put it,
The #NYR just played ‘clown car’ with their own net…
— Toni McIntyre (@ToniMacAttack) June 10, 2014
After killing off a mid-period penalty, LA was excellent. Once Lundqvist was pulled with 4:21 left, the visitors put on a clinic, not allowing even a single shot on goal. They carefully passed the puck around and didn’t take any chance at risking an odd man rush. A few Kings came within inches of scoring in the empty net, but couldn’t quite make it.
There’s not to much to say about this game except that Jonathan Quick was in some kind of other worldly zone. The Rangers dominated in pretty much every aspect of the game, except in the faceoff dot and on the scoreboard. They handily outpossessed and outchanced the Kings. The only thing New York couldn’t do was outscore LA, though that’s really the only thing that matters.
The Kings looked to improve defensively and while they did that, they were mostly bailed out by their goaltender. It’ll be interesting to see how both teams respond on Wednesday. The Rangers were rather unlucky but played pretty well overall. With the experience of 2012 to lean on, the core of the Kings feel prepared and ready to close out this series. However, the Rangers won’t go down without a fight. The hardest game to win is always the fourth one so the Kings’ defense and Jonathan Quick will once again need to be stellar if they’re going to hoist the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years.
For the Rangers, they really just need to keep playing their game the way they were. A fortuitous bounce or two will break their way eventually if they continue to apply that much pressure on their opponent. Whether or not that’ll be enough to beat this suddenly offensively hot Kings team remains to be seen.
Tune in Wednesday night to NBCSN at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT to find out who comes out on top in this battle. Can the Kings break a 16 year streak of a team going up 3-0 and not being able to finish it off in the fourth game or will the Rangers rally and stave off elimination to send this game back to Los Angeles? It promises to be an exciting game, especially since the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe trophies will both be in the building.