NEW YORK – New Yorkers waited 20 years to see their Rangers play for a Stanley Cup here – and it had been a long 20 years since the championship in 1994.
What they saw Monday night wasn't exactly what they'd hoped for.
Far from it.
Down 2-0 in this Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers desperately needed a win on Monday. Their coach, Alain Vigneault, said as much a day earlier, calling Game 3 as close to a must-win as possible.
Then, the Rangers went out and lost 3-0. Now, they're on the brink of elimination, and the Los Angeles Kings are on the precipice of winning their second Cup in three years. The Kings will go for the sweep on Wednesday.
From the Rangers' perspective, Monday's result wasn't for lack of chances. Early and often, the Rangers were the aggressors; they just couldn't figure out how to get the puck past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who tallied 32 saves to secure the victory.
Mats Zuccarello missed New York's best first-period scoring opportunity – a wide-open net after Quick was sprawled out of position. The Rangers also couldn't capitalize on a late first-period power play, which expired mere moments before what would ultimately be the game's greatest momentum-changer.
With seven-tenths of a second remaining in the first period, Kings forward Justin Williams found a streaking Jeff Carter, who beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist for the goal.
Remarkably, 1-0 in the first period of Game 3 marked the Kings' first lead in the series. In both Games 1 and 2, Los Angeles trailed by two goals before mounting comebacks to win each game in overtime.
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This time, the Kings decided to make things a little less dramatic. And, as it turns out, they're more than capable of playing with a lead.
After the buzzer-beater to end the first period, they added a Jake Muzzin power-play goal early in the second.
The Rangers attempted to counter with a flurry of second-period shots – 17 in that frame alone – but Quick was simply too good.
Quick had given up just 2.07 goals per game during the regular season – good for fifth-best in the NHL – but had just allowed the Rangers to score four in the first two periods in Game 2 before shutting them down during the remaining two and change.
On Monday, though, Quick's stat sheet matched the value he's provided for this Los Angeles team, and it was a bit of a masterpiece, complete with highlight reel-ready deflections. And more important, it was reminiscent of 2012 -- when Quick went 16-4 with three shutouts and a 1.41 goals-against average en route to winning the Stanley Cup, and the Conn Smythe Trophy.
While Quick dominated on one end, Mike Richards added another insurance goal on the other. He scored with about three minutes remaining in the second period, taking with him whatever enthusiasm remained from Rangers fans in the Garden. Los Angeles didn't need any bigger cushion.
No team has swept the Stanley Cup Final since the Red Wings won it in 1998.