New York Rangers Carl Hagelin (62), left, reacts as the Los Angeles Kings Willie Mitchell (33) and Slava Voynov (26), celebrate a second period goal by Mike Richards, center, during Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 9, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Jonathan Quick watched plenty of New York Rangers games on television while growing up in nearby Milford, Conn., but it was always a tough ticket to get into Madison Square Garden.
Just once before he got on the ice at the age of 12 for an intermission pee-wee shootout, and then Monday night at the age of 28 the Los Angeles Kings goaltender made a much more memorable appearance. Quick shut out the Rangers 3-0 to put his team up three games to none in the Stanley Cup final and one victory away from a second title in three years.
"You make one save and then you try to make the next," Quick said with little excitement in his voice after arguably his best performance in these playoffs. "We had a lot of guys that block shots, clear rebounds. Our (penalty kill) was very good tonight, possibly the difference in the game. You just make one save at a time and try to get ready for the next one."
Of Quick's 32 saves, two of them stuck out. In the first period he got his stick on a shot by Mats Zuccarello that went off the post and was bound to deflect in, and in the second he extended his paddle to get a piece of Derick Brassard's offering that could've been just what the Rangers needed to get back into the game and perhaps the series.
Quick couldn't remember what happened on either one. It was hard for anyone else to forget.
“He's one goalie that can save those kind of things," Kings defenceman Drew Doughty said. "Not to say that we expect those saves from him, but we're so used to seeing them because they happen so often that it's just normal business.”
After watching Quick win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP during Los Angeles's 2012 Cup run, Dustin Brown isn't even in awe anymore. The Kings' captain used to look up at the video board to figure out just how the puck stayed out of the net, but now he doesn't even bother.
"The best example is playing at the Olympics and seeing other guys react to it and I'm just sitting there because I've played with him long enough and he's made enough of those saves you kind of expect him to do it," Brown said. "It's not shocking by any means. He's been doing this all playoffs."
Quick hadn't been doing quite this in these playoffs. Monday night was just his second shutout in 24 games this post-season, but it was the ninth of his NHL career.
His stats during this run—a 2.80 goals-against average and .906 save percentage going into Monday—were hardly dazzling, but teammates were eager to give him credit for what had transpired before his masterful Game 3 showing.
"All I know is everyone's talking about Quickie and he's a big, big part of the reason we're here because he is a goaltender that makes big saves at big times," Brown said.
Quick did need some help and got it with goals from Jeff Carter, Jake Muzzin and Mike Richards. Carter's goal with 0.7 seconds left in the first period stunned the sellout crowd of 18,000-plus in the first Cup final game at the Garden in 20 years.
Carter's seemingly innocent flick of a shot deflected off the skate of diving Rangers defenceman Dan Girardi before going in off Henrik Lundqvist's glove.
"I was reacting low and it went high," Lundqvist said. "It's just one of those plays where, with a little luck there that puck ends up in the netting or the glass. Unfortunately, half a second left and it ended up in our net. It was a tough play."
That goal marked the first lead for the Kings since Game 6 of the Western Conference final against the Chicago Blackhawks. Los Angeles came back from two-goal deficits to win Games 1 and 2 at Staples Center.
"It was a little bit easier scoring first, obviously," centre Anze Kopitar said. "Scoring at 0.7 left the first takes a little bit of wind out of their sails and energizes us."
A rash of high-sticking penalties by the Rangers early in the second period didn't help, and Marc Staal's led to Muzzin's power-play goal. With Martin St. Louis trying to get his body in front of Muzzin's shot from the point, the puck instead went off the Rangers winger and past Lundqvist 4:17 into the second period.
Fans tried to generate some noise off the face-off, and the Rangers followed with plenty of chances to get back into the game. The power-play unit that entered the night 1-for-8 in the series managed some sustained pressure but came up empty thanks to Quick's brilliance.
New York finished 0-for-6 on the power play in Game 3. Asked what went wrong in general, coach Alain Vigneault answered only: "We couldn't score."
When Lundqvist was asked what happened, the usually charming media darling fired back: "Better question."
What happened in the second period was the Rangers fell behind 3-0 as Richards got a two-on-one with Trevor Lewis, banked his initial shot off Ryan McDonagh and buried his second to put the Kings in cruise control.
Despite 15 multi-goal comebacks already in these playoffs, an NHL record, a three-goal deficit looked daunting even as the Rangers out-shot the Kings 32-15 overall because Quick appeared unbeatable.
Ultimately, he was.
"He was obviously the best player on the ice tonight," Vigneault said of Quick. "Give them credit. They found a way to put the puck past our real good goaltender and we couldn't do it."
Marian Gaborik, playing his first game back at the Garden since the Rangers traded him to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2013 deadline, called Quick the Kings' "cornerstone" Monday night. Doughty termed him their "backbone" all the time.
Monday night was a reminder of that to anyone who forgot how good Quick can be at his best.
"I don't think he has to remind us too many times," Kopitar said. "We know what he's capable of. That's why we love having him back there."
Twice in Game 3 he made saves that earn him that kind of love and admiration and a place on highlight reels. At the 12:37 mark of the first, Zuccarello had a no-doubt goal from just in front, but his shot hit the post and then Quick's before going wide.
"It was an empty-net goal, and he got a piece of it," Brown said. "That allowed us to get our legs going and not fall behind early."
Quick's most spectacular of the night came 10:22 into the second on Brassard's offering from the side of the net. A cross ice pass forced Quick to go full extension, and with his paddle almost parallel to the ice he kept it out.
"It looked from the bench like the guy just missed it, but you look at the replay and he gets a piece of it," Brown said. "He has a different style than all the other goalies in the league. He's just quick and he gets post-to-post faster than any goalie in the whole entire league."
Now one victory away from a second championship in three years, Quick isn't a strong Conn Smythe candidate this time around. But in dominating against the Rangers on Monday night, he put the Kings on the verge of recapturing the trophy they really care about.
“He's still been very sharp for us and he's been a huge key for our success without a doubt," Doughty said. "Maybe he didn't have to stand on his head like he did in 2012 but tonight I thought he stood on his head."
NOTES—Neither team made any lineup changes from Game 2, which meant that Kings defenceman Robyn Regehr missed his 16th straight game with injury. David LeNevu again served as the Rangers' backup goalie with Cam Talbot (undisclosed) still out. ... A handful of celebrities were featured on the arena's video screens, including New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire, late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon and actors Bryan Cranston and Robert De Niro.
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