The Los Angeles Kings took advantage of their breaks in Game Three and goaltender Jonathan Quick was terrific, stopping all 32 shots he faced, as the Kings downed the Rangers 3-0 to take a 3-0 stranglehold in the series.
Game Three opened with a brilliant pace, as the Rangers and Kings played a back-and-forth first period with very few whistles. It looked like it was going to end up scoreless through one when Kings C Jeff Carter buried a 2-on-1 with Justin Williams, his wrist shot deflecting in off a sliding Dan Girardi with 0.7 seconds remaining in the first period. A backbreaking goal for a Rangers team already down two games in the series.
With Rangers D Marc Staal in the penalty box, for high-sticking, Kings D Jake Muzzin scored a power play goal early in the second period to create some breathing room. Muzzin's goal was on the power play, but was a wrist shot from just inside the blueline that deflected in off Rangers RW Martin St. Louis. Two goals on two attempted blocked shots and this left the Rangers, down a couple of goals, to press.
Late in the second period, Kings C Mike Richards broke out on a 2-on-1 with RW Trevor Lewis, and after Rangers D Ryan McDonagh blocked Richards' attempted pass, Richards found the puck back on his stick and finished it off to give the Kings a 3-0 lead. The proverbial dagger.
The Rangers had many chances -- they outshot the Kings 17-8 in the second period, then 11-2 in the third, once the deficit was virtually insurmountable -- but they couldn't get the puck past Quick. His 32-save shutout was his best of a postseason that hasn't been Quick's best. Even with the Game Three shutout, Quick has a .910 save percentage in 24 games, but the Rangers' best chance to pull off an upset in the series was going to be if Henrik Lundqvist outdueled Quick and that hasn't happened. In Game Three, the Kings won while registering a season-low 15 shots on goal.
The playoff scoring race didn't see any change at the top, or at least similar change as Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams and Marian Gaborik each had a single point. Kopitar leads the postseason with 26 points, two ahead of Carter and Williams, five ahead of Gaborik. Williams, making his late charge for the Conn Smythe, had six points (1 G, 5 A) in the series.
There may not have been a better example of the Rangers' frustration in Game Three than to see RW Rick Nash, who has just three goals in the playoffs, creating chances -- he had a game-high seven shot attempts -- but coming up empty at every turn. In one second period sequence, Nash attacked on the rush, was stopped by Quick, stayed on the puck, gathered control behind the Kings' net and as he attempted a wrap-around, was hooked by Kings D Drew Doughty to prevent the goal. It was a smart play by Doughty in the moment and, given the Rangers' power play struggles (2-for-30, 6.7% in the past seven games), it was sensible, even in desperation.
Game Three was a fine example of why a team like the Rangers, the underdog coming in, couldn't afford to lose a pair of overtime games. Sure, the Rangers could have easily won one of the first two games in Los Angeles and come home even, but they didn't. Then, they had a game in which the bounces totally went in the Kings' direction and, just like that, the series is 3-0 and that should be just about that. In 26 previous Stanley Cup Final series in which a team has taken a 3-0 lead, only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs managed to overcome the deficit.
That's what the Rangers are left with. Long, virtually impossible odds, in a series that (aside from the third period of Game One) they have played relatively even throughout. Maybe the Rangers deserved a better fate, but they are left needing a miracle and it's pretty tough to count on miracles when the other guys are getting the bounces.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.