NEW YORK (AP) — Jonathan Quick looked right at home on the road inside Madison Square Garden.
One more night like this, and the Connecticut native will be able to skate with the Stanley Cup under the bright lights of Broadway.
Quick and the Los Angeles Kings didn’t need a comeback or the benefit of overtime. He stopped all 32 New York Rangers shots, and his teammates provided plenty of offense in a 3-0 win Monday night in Game 3 of the finals.
Los Angeles moved within one win of its second Stanley Cup title in three years. The Rangers could be eliminated as early as Wednesday at home.
Years ago, that thought would have troubled the young Quick. Living about 90 minutes away from Manhattan, he was a fan of the Rangers and 1994 Stanley Cup-winning netminder Mike Richter.
Quick played his first professional game at the Garden on Monday, but it wasn’t his first time on the famed ice that hadn’t hosted a Stanley Cup finals game in 20 years. As a 12-year-old, Quick played a peewee championship shootout in between periods of a Rangers game.
“I didn’t come to many games, but I watched a few,” he said. “That was the one game I was actually able to catch. To all you guys that said I never played here, I did play here once.”
Quick offered a laugh then, but he was all business the rest of the time at the podium after one of the biggest wins of his career. He wore a black hooded sweatshirt, and the volume of his voice raised very little as he leaned into a microphone to answer questions.
The 28-year-old Quick has two shutouts in these playoffs and nine in 74 career postseason games. His sole focus now is on getting one more win to clinch his second Stanley Cup ring.
“It’s tough to compare,” he said of the Kings’ 2012 championship. “We were able to find ways to win games then. We’ve been able to do that so far this year. The only difference right now is that team won 16 games, and we haven’t won 16 yet, so we’re going to keep working.”
They worked to get a lead for the first time in four games and then they expanded it. Los Angeles had won its previous three in overtime – including Game 7 of the Western finals at Chicago – going in front only at the end of each with the decisive goal.
Jeff Carter scored in the final second of the first period Monday, and defenseman Jake Muzzin and Mike Richards added goals in the second. With such a comfortable lead, it didn’t matter that the Kings were outshot 11-2 in the third and 32-15 overall.
“I think Carter’s goal was the big one,” Richards said. “We haven’t played well off the start. I thought we played a pretty good first period. To get that at the end of the period made us feel good.
“We’re a team that plays a lot different when we have the lead and we play with confidence. We don’t sit back. We just keep pushing.”
The Rangers tried that in the two games in Los Angeles, but their two-goal leads never grew to three. The Kings have already survived three Game 7s on the road, so this amount of success has their confidence soaring.
“I don’t think it would be any different if we were down 3-0,” Quick said. “We’re just trying to win a game in a couple days here.”
Not even six power plays could jump-start New York’s offense.
While there has been only one comeback from a 3-0 hole in the finals, the Kings erased such a deficit in the first round against San Jose.
“Well, we know it’s possible,” Richards said. “The last game is always the hardest. We played a good game. We’re going to have to play a better game if we’re going to want to have success.”
New York’s Henrik Lundqvist was hardly at fault on the goals, and finished with 12 saves.
“You try to stay positive right now, but it’s tough. It’s really tough,” Lundqvist said. “We are doing a lot of good things, but you look at the goals, and we put two in our own net. Then just a tough play on the third one.”
Quick made a brilliant save with his stick blade to deny Derick Brassard shortly after a Rangers power play. That stop came on the heels of Brassard having two chances during the advantage off a rebound of Brad Richards’ shot.
Brassard’s first attempt was blocked, and the second was stopped by Quick.
The Kings’ goalie was also on his toes just 8 seconds into the third when Chris Kreider came in alone but was stopped in tight. That eliminated the optimism the sold-out, towel-waving crowd had of a big comeback.
Los Angeles went ahead 1-0 when Carter scored his 10th of the playoffs on the Kings’ fifth shot. His drive clipped the skate of diving defenseman Dan Girardi in front and caromed inside the right post with 0.7 seconds left in the first.
The red and green lights behind Lundqvist both flashed while the Kings celebrated.
“It was an unfortunate goal to give up at the end of the period,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “I thought our guys stayed with it and tried to come out with some energy, and created a lot. It was a tough one.”
The quick pace played into the Rangers’ preferred style, but New York managed only four shots in the first. They nearly took a lead for a third straight game when Mats Zuccarello faced an empty net at the left post, yet he was stopped by Quick’s lunging stick.
The Rangers’ early lead in the opener became a 3-2 loss when Justin Williams scored in overtime. They held three two-goal leads in Game 2, only to be thwarted when Kings captain Dustin Brown won it in double overtime on Saturday.
Muzzin made it 2-0 at 4:17 of the second after former Rangers forward Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar worked the puck up the right wing wall to Muzzin at the point for a shot that struck New York’s Martin St. Louis and found its way past Lundqvist.
Mike Richards finished a 2-on-1 with Trevor Lewis when his attempted pass across bounced back to him off McDonagh and was put it with 2:46 left in the second.