Los Angeles 4 New Jersey 0
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings are on the verge of greatness. It’s only going to take one more win for them to be crowned Stanley Cup champions for the first time.
On a night when Wayne Gretzky dropped the puck on a ceremonial faceoff, the Kings moved one step closer to joining The Great One’s 1988 Edmonton Oilers as the most dominant NHL champions in history.
Jonathan Quick continued his otherworldly play Monday by stopping all 22 shots he faced as Los Angeles drove a dagger through the hearts of the New Jersey Devils with a 4-0 victory. The Kings hold a 3-0 series lead for a fourth time this post-season.
“If we win one more game, I hope the San Andreas fault can take it,” Kings forward Dustin Penner said.
It appears as though the Devils share something in common with each of the Kings previous three opponents — they have no answer for Quick, who looks like a slam dunk selection to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
The goaltender was particularly sharp in the first period, when the score was still 0-0 and the Devils enjoyed a 5-on-3 advantage for 59 seconds. He got his pad on a dangerous chance from Ilya Kovalchuk to keep New Jersey from getting its first real burst of momentum in the series.
“You’ve got to find a way to score goals,” Devils forward David Clarkson said. “We’ve been putting the puck on the net. Like I said we’ve been working hard … and we’re going to continue to push. We’re not done yet.”
Alec Martinez ended up opening the scoring at 5:40 of the second period immediately after Quick denied David Clarkson on a dangerous opportunity. Teammate Dwight King got four whacks at a puck that was lodged under Martin Brodeur’s pads before Martinez knocked it into the net — a play the Devils goaltender felt should have been blown dead.
It was the only goal the Kings would need.
Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Justin Williams went on to beat Brodeur as Los Angeles showed the form of a champion. Perhaps the only question still hanging over the Kings is how did this team nearly miss the playoffs?
After finishing as the eighth seed in the Western Conference, they have clinically picked apart Vancouver, St. Louis, Phoenix and now the Devils, compiling a 15-2 record along the way. The only other team to show such dominance under the NHL’s current playoff format is the 1988 Oilers, who went 16-2.
New Jersey looks like a team that doesn’t know what hit it.
During six power-play opportunities in Game 3 they barely threatened to score — and found a brick wall in Quick on their few quality chances. Los Angeles has also struggled with the man advantage throughout the playoffs, but even found an answer for that with the third-period goals by Carter and Williams.
“Penalty killing was a huge factor, obviously the 5-on-3 then the three after that,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said.
“…It’s not easy when you’ve had that many penalties called against you. It’s hard on your team because there are guys that don’t play when they’re killing and there are guys that probably play too much.”
Meanwhile, offensive stars Kovalchuk and Zach Parise have been held without a goal in the series.
“It’s not that our guys aren’t trying or not doing enough. (The Kings are) shutting the door,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “We’ve got to find a way.”
As time ticked down, fans confidently chanted “We want the Cup!” — something the Kings have never brought home — and there’s every reason to believe the wish will be granted with Wednesday’s Game 4.
It’s a great time to be a hockey fan in Los Angeles.
The sellout crowd at Staples Center was rocking for the first Stanley Cup final game in the city since Gretzky’s 1993 Kings faced Montreal in 1993. A pre-game video montage showed pictures of the Los Angeles players as children and ended with the message: “This is the moment.”
It’s their moment, all right. And right now the big stage is theirs and theirs alone.