Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
LOS ANGELES – Jonathan Quick made 22 saves in his third shutout of the postseason, Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist, and the Los Angeles Kings rolled to the brink of the franchise’s first NHL title, beating the New Jersey Devils 4-0 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals Monday night to take a 3-0 series lead.
Alec Martinez scored the opening goal, and Jeff Carter and Justin Williams added late power-play goals as the Western Conference champion Kings moved one win away from finishing one of the most spectacular playoff runs in league history.
Eighth-seeded Los Angeles improved to 15-2 in the postseason and jumped to a 3-0 lead in its fourth consecutive series – a first in NHL history.
Martin Brodeur stopped 17 shots, but the Devils couldn’t beat the spectacular Quick or his penalty-killers, who turned aside six power plays. New Jersey must accomplish just the fourth comeback from an 0-3 series deficit in NHL playoff history to win its third title.
The Kings survived another solid performance early in Game 3 by the Devils, who had ample opportunity to take an early lead.
New Jersey has been pretty good in the finals, but nothing has been able to slow down these Kings, who seem destined to become the first No. 8 seed to win the Stanley Cup.
The Devils never had lost three consecutive Stanley Cup finals games in the franchise’s five appearances. New Jersey hadn’t lost three consecutive games this season since late February.
The Kings had to survive their early nerves from playing in front of their title-starved fans, and they barely hung on at times against the Devils’ dynamic forechecking in the first two periods. They got another peerless performance from Quick, who has allowed just 24 goals in 17 playoff games – just two in the finals.
The Kings even got something from the power play that has been their weakest feature during the postseason, going 6-for-77 before Game 3. Carter scored his sixth goal of the postseason on a splendid setup pass from longtime teammate Mike Richards early in the third period, and Williams followed 2:32 later with a slick goal in the slot, practically blowing the roof off the sold-out building.
Martinez scored his first career playoff goal early in the second period, and Kopitar followed about 10 minutes later with his third goal in four games off a spectacular pass from captain Dustin Brown.
The Kings could celebrate their first title at home, but their only weakness in this charmed postseason has been Game 4. They’re 10-0 on the road in the postseason but failed to close out Vancouver and Phoenix at home in Game 4s.
New Jersey largely dominated play before Martinez scored the game’s first goal on a scramble in front of Brodeur, and the Devils repeatedly dominated puck possession while creating six power plays in the first two periods to none for the Kings. The Devils couldn’t score against the Kings’ stellar penalty-killers in front of Quick, who might have nosed ahead in the derby for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP with another shutout.
Although the Kings improbably have been dominant during the postseason, the Devils gave Los Angeles plenty of trouble in the Kings’ two overtime victories in Newark last week. New Jersey’s strong forechecking and Brodeur’s solid goaltending nearly overwhelmed the Kings, who had to rely on Quick and their own stellar penalty-killing to reach overtime.
The Kings needed their penalty-killing again in the first period of Game 3 after Carter took a 4-minute penalty for high-sticking Adam Henrique while Los Angeles already was short-handed. Los Angeles killed one minute of 5-on-3 play before Marek Zidlicky lopped two more minutes off the power play with a penalty of his own to prevent a breakaway. New Jersey had just one shot to show for all that advantage during the scoreless first period.
The Devils again dominated the puck early in the second period, keeping it in Los Angeles’ end for long stretches, but Quick made saves with everything from his blocker to his shoulder to keep the puck out.
But the Kings went ahead when Dwight King created a scoring chance with a big hit, eventually hacking at the puck underneath Brodeur’s pad in front. Martinez joined the effort with Trevor Lewis and got credit for the goal when the puck finally trickled in, scoring his first goal in his 23rd career playoff games. The Devils complained play should have been stopped.
Late in the period, Kopitar extended the lead on a stellar rush by the Kings’ top line. Justin Williams moved the puck into the zone and found Brown, who feathered a cross-ice pass to Kopitar for the Slovenian star’s eighth goal of the postseason, giving Los Angeles its first two-goal lead since Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.
The Kings finally got a power play early in the third period, and Carter beat Brodeur top shelf with a pass from Richards. Williams then caught the Devils’ penalty-killers napping, and the celebration was on.
Staples Center was packed to the rafters well before Wayne Gretzky took the ice for the ceremonial opening faceoff. Los Angeles’ long-suffering hockey fans hadn’t seen a Stanley Cup finals game since 1993, enduring two trips to the finals by the rival Anaheim Ducks in the previous decade while the Kings moved into their 44th season of existence without a championship.
The roaring crowd gave a standing ovation to Gretzky, the driving force behind the Kings’ only other finals appearance.
The Kings got another boost from the return of left wing Simon Gagne, who hadn’t played since Dec. 26 while recovering from a concussion. Gagne is a seven-time 20-goal scorer in his first season in Los Angeles, carrying ample playoff experience from his decade with the Philadelphia Flyers, including a trip to the 2010 Stanley Cup finals.