(Photo: USA TODAY Sports)
For all the emphasis that’s been put on the statistics and patterns-turned-storylines of this Stanley Cup Final, games like Monday night’s Game 3 prove that numbers aren’t everything.
Coming into this game, the L.A. Kings had not led for a single second of the series. They had trailed 2-0 in three consecutive games and faced a 2-goal deficit three different times (2-0, 3-1, 4-2) in Game 2. And on Monday night, the New York Rangers outshot the Kings 32-15 at Madison Square Garden.
But despite these rather condemning statistics, L.A. will enter Game 4 on Wednesday with a 3-0 series lead over New York.
This Kings team has been called the “cockroaches” of the 2014 playoffs, in the sense that they have become seemingly unstoppable, unkillable. They came back from a 3-0 series deficit against the San Jose Sharks in round 1; they forced a Game 7 in Anaheim in the second round and eliminated the top-ranked Ducks; and they fought off a comeback by Chicago to defeat the Blackhawks in a Game 7 overtime matchup in the Western Conference Finals. If the Rangers can’t find a way to start a comeback of their own, the Stanley Cup will be headed back to Los Angeles for the second time in three seasons.
While Games 1 and 2 of this final NYR/LAK series both ended as overtime thrillers–with final scores of 3-2 and 5-4, respectively–Game 3 finished with a decisive 3-0 win for the Kings. By the end of Monday night’s game, all of the “rules” of this series that had been established in Games 1 and 2 had been broken.
For those of you keeping track, here’s what didn’t happen in Game 3:
- The Rangers did not score first.
- The Rangers did not score at all.
- The Rangers did not take a 2-0 lead in the first period.
- The Kings did not trail by a 2+ goal deficit during the game.
- The Kings did not rally and make a comeback to strip the Rangers of the aforementioned 2+ goal lead.
- The game did not go into overtime.
- And, interestingly enough, the Kings did not outshoot the Rangers.
Here’s what did happen:
- The Kings scored first, on a buzzer-beater by C Jeff Carter at the end of the first period.
- The Kings scored second off of D Jake Muzzin‘s powerplay goal 4:17 into the second.
- The Kings scored third with a snapshot by C Mike Richards in the closing minutes of the second period and never looked back.
- The Kings took the lead and held it through the end of the game.
- The Rangers had more than twice as many shots on goal as the Kings.
Oh yeah, and one more thing:
- Jonathan Quick happened.
Quick stopped each of the 32 shots he faced and recorded his ninth career shutout in a performance that won him First Star of the Game accolades. It’s not that the Rangers took bad shots or didn’t have golden opportunities to score; in fact, at one point in the second period, New York had thirteen shots in a row. But tonight, Quick brought his A+ game, made some truly spectacular saves, and kept the Rangers off the scoreboard. Tonight, Quick reminded the hockey world why he’s a Conn Smythe winner.
Quick’s goaltending, combined with the Kings’ strong penalty killing, made for a quiet crowd in Madison Square Garden and a frustrated home team. “[Quick] made some big saves that could have changed the game for sure,” said Rangers C Brad Richards. “It felt like we were real close…then all of a sudden, the period’s over.” Every time the Rangers looked like they had an offensive rally building, the Kings found a way to shut them down.
The Rangers pulled G Henrik Lundqvist with 4:21 remaining in the third for the extra attacker, but Quick remained perfect in goal in spite of New York’s late 6-on-5 advantage.
“We’re down 3-0 and it feels like we can easily have two wins…It’s not about playing great, it’s not about having great looks. It’s about finding ways to win, and [LA has] been able to do that, so we have to leave everything out there now in the next game,” said Lundqvist after the game.
Only four teams have overcome a 0-3 deficit in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it’s happened only once in the final round, when the Toronto Maple Leafs came back to win against the Detroit Red Wings in the 1941-42 season.
The most recent team to come back after losing its first 3 games? The 2013-14 Kings.
But again, as proven earlier, numbers aren’t everything. Patterns and statistics don’t necessarily point to inevitabilities. So for now, the Rangers plan to take the rest of this series one game at a time and use the next 48 hours to prepare for Game 4.
“We’ve had some good efforts, and we’ve just had some mistakes that ended up in the back of our net…we’ve got to work ourselves out of this,” Rangers LW Rick Nash said. “We’ve just got to worry about this next game. We can’t look at the big picture now.”
Game 4 of the series begins Wednesday night (June 11) at 8pm ET/5pm PT.