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Kings blank Rangers, move within one win of Cup

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings

There were no late-game heroics needed Monday night. The Kings’ defense set the tone from the get-go.

Inside Madison Square Garden, arguably the sports world’s most famous still-standing arena, the Rangers were hosting a Stanley Cup Final game for the first time in 20 years. The Kings, though, were the team that looked to be at home.

They were calm, collected, and with that -- in total control.

So was Madison Square Garden, except quieter.

The Kings’ win was backboned by an absolutely stellar performance from goaltender Jonathan Quick, who stymied all 32 of the pucks New York sent his way to post his ninth career playoff shutout, his second of this postseason. It was a remarkable debut for Quick on New York’s hallowed hockey grounds, as he made his first career NHL start at MSG Monday night.

Quick’s mindset was simple -- “You make one save, then the next one, and then you go from there,” he expressed to reporters following the game. Simple, just like the Kings played.

The Kings’ flawless start to the game defensively, paid off offensively in the final second of the first period, as they refused to give up on a waning clock. After quick neutral zone transition, the Kings skated in on a 3-on-2, while the Rangers’ back check was waiting for time to expire.

Justin Williams found Jeff Carter, who was streaking to the top of the slot, with a perfect pass, and Carter snapped it home with :0.7 seconds showing on the game clock. Carter’s goal gave the Kings a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission. It was a devastating blow to the Rangers, who now had to find some sort of way to respond after such a gut-wrenching way to end the first period.

The Rangers were muddled with two high-stick penalties in the opening minutes of the second, and the Kings capitalized on the latter of the two infractions.

As Anze Kopitar controlled the puck along the sideboards during what was the Kings’ second power play of the evening, he found Jake Muzzin open atop the right point. Muzzin, seeing plenty of traffic in front of Henrik Lundqvist’s net, along with an open lane, fired a wrist shot toward the net.

Muzzin’s wrister banked off of New York’s Martin St. Louis and past Henrik Lundqvist, who was screened by Jeff Carter. Muzzin’s goal gave the Kings a 2-0 lead with 15:43 to play in the second period.

Later in the period, Mike Richards gave the Kings a 3-0 lead. Richards was on a 2-on-1 rush with Trevor Lewis, but failed to connect with Lewis on a pass. Richards’ pass attempt hit off the skate of Ryan Mcdonagh, bounced right back onto Richards’ stick, and the Kings forward chipped the puck into the net. Lundqvist was caught cheating on Richards’ botched pass, and the Kings took a 3-0 lead into the second intermission.

The Kings’ defense, along with Jonathan Quick, finished what they started in the third period. All 11 of New York’s shots in the final period were turned away, and they successfully killed off two more penalties, keeping the Rangers’ power play scoreless in six opportunities Monday night.

The Kings are now 10-0 this postseason when keeping the opposition’s power play off the board.

Sure, the defense set the tone for the Kings, but it was their offense that continued to stay impressively consistent. For the ninth consecutive game, the Kings scored at least three goals. They lead the NHL in postseason scoring with 84 goals, chiming in with a remarkable average of 3.5 goals per game. The Kings finished the regular season ranked 26th in the league in scoring.

The Kings finished the night with three goals on 15 shots. They blocked 20 Rangers shots.

The Kings will look for the Stanley Cup clinching win Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. Wednesday marks the second anniversary of when the Kings beat the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 on June 11, 2012 to capture the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup. The puck is set to drop just after 5:00 PM PST.

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