NEW YORK -- Three games into the 2014 Stanley Cup final and the New York Rangers are on the brink of elimination following the club’s devastating 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
They are in serious danger of being the first team swept in the final since 1998.
The Kings are just 60 minutes from their second championship in the past three years and Lord Stanley’s Cup will be in the building Wednesday for the taking, unless the Rangers can muster one last stand at MSG.
This time, Los Angeles didn’t even need to summon a furious comeback effort, as they built a 3-0 lead and never looked back against the Blueshirts, whose coach Alain Vigneault dubbed the game “must win” prior to Monday’s action.
The Rangers have battled adversity throughout this postseason to make this surprising run to the finals, but they appear to have finally met their match in a big, heavy, structured Kings squad.
Kings netminder Jonathan Quick was on point Monday night, making a number of stunning saves to hold the Rangers scoreless, recording his second shutout of the 2014 playoffs.
Can’t catch a break: After bemoaning their puck luck in the first two games, the Rangers have to be downright flummoxed by their inability to get a fortuitous bounce after Game 3.
Let’s have a look at the first three Kings goals: Jeff Carter's shot glanced off the heel of Game 1 scapegoat Dan Girardi's skate blade. Jake Muzzin's shot deflected off Martin St. Louis. Mike Richards attempted to dish on a two-on-one rush, only to have the puck hit Ryan McDonagh and kick right to his third goal of the postseason.
Not much you can do on any of those if you’re Henrik Lundqvist.
Long overdue: Rangers winger Rick Nash has been held off the scoresheet in four straight games, though he has delivered some of his most physical, energetic hockey during that span.
The marquee winger was engaged again Monday night, driving the net with purpose, though he didn’t make a power-play appearance since the team’s fourth power play of the game.
Nash has been barely used on the man-advantage during the series, a puzzling decision by Vigneault.
Buzzer-beater: The MSG crowd was stunned into silence as the two clubs skated off the ice after the first period, still processing the back-breaker of a goal from Jeff Carter scored with less than one second on the clock in the opening frame.
Carter ripped a shot that deflected off Girardi and past Lundqvist with just 0.7 ticks left on the clock to end a period that had plenty of action and very few stoppages. Naturally it was Justin Williams, who has had a stunning postseason, that dished to Carter for the timely goal to pick up his 16th assist of the postseason. Prior to Carter’s 10th goal of the season, the Rangers had one particularly terrific scoring chance when Mats Zuccarello had the puck on his stick at the left post, staring at an open net. Quick made a sensational stick save, though, and the Rangers headed off to the intermission trailing in a game for the first time this entire series.
Conn Smythe candidate: With William’s dominant, plucky play this spring, his name must now enter the the Conn Smythe conversation, awarded to the playoff MVP. With his assist on Carter’s first-period marker, Williams extended his point streak to five games (two goals, seven assists). Not to mention he has lived up to his nickname as “Mr. Game 7” with his consistently clutch production. The 32-year-old Cobourg, Ontario, native also has two goals in Game 7's this postseason and two game-winning goals, including in Game 1 of this series.