NHL: Stanley Cup in Reach After Kings Batter Devils 4-0
Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Kings rolled to the brink of the club’s first NHL title, beating the New Jersey Devils 4-0 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals on their home ice on Monday to take a 3-0 series lead.
Jonathan Quick made 22 saves in his third shutout of the postseason, and Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist as the Western Conference champion Kings moved one win away from finishing one of the most spectacular playoff runs in league history.
Alec Martinez scored the opening goal for the Kings, and Jeff Carter and Justin Williams added late power-play goals. Eighth-seeded Los Angeles improved to 15-2 in the postseason and jumped to a 3-0 lead in its fourth straight series — a first in NHL history, with game 4 coming up Wednesday night at Staples Center.
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.
After opening their first Stanley Cup finals appearance in 19 years with two overtime victories in New Jersey, 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 played well in the finals, but they haven’t been able to put up anything against the rampaging Kings, who seem destined to become the first No. 8 seed to win the Stanley Cup.
The Devils had never lost three straight Stanley Cup finals games in the franchise’s five appearances. In fact, New Jersey hadn’t lost three straight 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, and a mere two goals in the finals.
The Kings even got something from their power play, which 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.
The 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.