After two great games, Game 3 was a big dud in the Big Apple

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NEW YORK — It was a little over halfway through the second period when a fan stood up and bellowed – as only a New York sports fan can really bellow – “Do something!”

The fan was bellowing at the hometown Rangers, who to be fair hadn’t exactly done nothing to that point. They just hadn’t scored, unlike the Los Angeles Kings, who’d done so twice.

Not long after the bellow, the Kings took off on an odd-man rush and Mike Richards made it 3-0. The game was all but over. The series, by extension, was on the brink of ending, too.

Safe to say — and we really do hate to say it — but after two wildly entertaining games to start the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, the third one was a big dud in the Big Apple.

Not to the Kings or their fans, of course – for them, the 3-0 shutout win left them one victory from their second title in three years.

But certainly to the Ranger faithful, who hadn’t witnessed a Cup final game at MSG since June 14, 1994, when the Original Six club celebrated its first championship since 1940. The sellout crowd did its best tonight, but there was little to cheer for, especially compared to what Kings fans were treated to at Staples Center.

And also, presumably, to all the hockey fans with no real rooting interest, as the specter of the first Cup sweep since 1998 looms. This could’ve been such a great series, based on what we saw in Games 1 and 2. And while we suppose it still could be, it could also be over in two days.

“It’s pretty boring, nothing flashy, but we’ll take it,” said Anze Kopitar. “We realize that this kind of hockey got us here, and it’s going to take us from here on out. We just got to make sure we keep playing like that.”

Meanwhile, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist admitted that pessimism was getting difficult to stave off.

“You try to stay positive right now, but it’s tough,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough. I think we’re doing a lot of good things but when you look at the goals, you know, we put two in our net and just a tough play on the third one. At some point you’re going to have to need some puck luck and we don’t have any right now. It feels like they have all of it.”

New York outshot Los Angeles by a wide margin in Game 3 (32-15), and the Rangers indeed had their chances. But Jonathan Quick was spectacular when needed in the Kings’ net, and he was solid the rest of the time.

“I think that was his best game of the playoffs,” said Drew Doughty. “He played fantastic for us tonight. He made some big saves, saves he had no business making. His rebound control was good, his puck-handling was good, everything about his game tonight was great and he was a big reason why he won.”

“Well, he was obviously the best player on the ice tonight,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “But, you know, we got sort of a bad rush read on the first. We deflect in our net. Same thing happened in the second goal. On the third goal we played a two-on-one right, take the pass, goes right back on their stick. Give them credit. They found a way to put the puck past a real good goaltender, and we couldn’t do it.”

Down 3-0 and facing elimination, the Rangers had more important things to think about than tonight’s disappointed crowd, which included celebrities like Jimmy Fallon, Robert De Niro and Bryan Cranston, the latter of whom received one of the loudest ovations of the night when he was shown on the video board. (Which said a lot about how things went for the home side.)

“It’s not about that,” said Anton Stralman. “It’s about winning hockey games. Right now, it’s not bouncing our way, obviously. It’s a bit frustrating, but at the same time, it’s another game Wednesday. … It’s not over. We put up a winning streak these playoffs already. We aim to do the same thing again. We have to start with one.”

Start with one. Then somehow get another on the road. Then come home and get another. Then it’s a Game 7, where anything can happen. Just ask the Kings. (Also, the Sharks.)

And don’t forget that New York has had its own big comeback this postseason, fighting back to beat Pittsburgh in the second round after trailing 3-1.

“We’ll see,” said Ryan McDonagh. “We’ve gotten out of deficits before. We believe in each other in here. We’re just going to keep preparing the same way and come out with everything we’ve got. We’ve got nothing to save it for now.”

The reality, though, is that only one team, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the Stanley Cup Final.

At the very least, can the Rangers make it interesting?

Wild extend captain Mikko Koivu’s contract for two years, $11M

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Minnesota Wild fans fearing that the 2017-18 season could be Mikko Koivu‘s last can breathe a sigh of relief, and that suspense didn’t even carry into opening night.

Instead, the Wild signed Koivu to a two-year contract extension worth $11 million.

That $5.5M cap hit kicks in during the 2018-19 campaign and ends after 2019-20. It represents a minor cut in pay for Koivu, as he’s entering the final year of a deal with a $6.75M cap hit.

Koivu, 34, enjoyed a strong first season under Bruce Boudreau, becoming a Selke finalist for the first time in his underrated career. He’s been Minnesota’s captain since 2008-09.

Koivu’s deal would qualify as a 35+ contract, according to Cap Friendly.

The Finnish forward likely valued stability, maybe taking a little less in AAV for the sake of peace of mind.

This continues a busy week-or-so for the Wild, who also broke their impasse with RFA Marcus Foligno by handing him a four-year, $11.5M deal.

Opinion: this Koivu deal is a much, much easier decision to justify, even taking into account his advanced age.

Predators captain announcement looming; they have some great options

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Multiple reporters* indicate that the Nashville Predators will name their captain (and alternates) on Wednesday.

Mike Fisher briefly held the title, and before him, Shea Weber wore the “C.” Both were safe, obvious choices; this time around, there are some intriguing options. The Tennessean’s Adam Vignan reports that the Predators themselves realize that there are quite a few logical captains in their midst (which probably isn’t a bad problem to have).

“It’s totally different this time around,” Pekka Rinne said. “I think Mike last year, I think everybody saw that coming. Everybody agreed. Everybody was really comfortable with it. I think now we have, in my opinion, at least four great options to choose from.”

Note: the Predators would be wise not to pull a Canucks with Roberto Luongo as captain experiment, even if Rinne’s easily one of the team’s leaders.

Some of the most obvious options include young-yet-veteran defenseman Roman Josi, big-dollar-center Ryan Johansen, and star blueliner P.K. Subban.

(Honestly, though, it’s difficult to imagine Subban wearing the “C” after all the weird, Listerine-scented stuff with the media happened during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.)

As strong as those options are, it sure feels like Josi is the favorite, especially since he’s been around longer than Subban, Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson.

Vegas oddmakers agree:

And so do reporters covering the team on a day-to-day basis:

One moment of devil’s advocacy, though: Subban, Johansen, Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, and Mattias Ekholm all have more term on their contracts than Josi, who is a bargain at $4M for three more seasons.

OK, that’s kind of a weak argument, but hey … sometimes it’s a pain to have to deal with captain questions so often, and you never know if the team might determine that Josi is expendable, considering their deep war chest on the blueline.

Nah, Josi’s probably the easy and correct choice. Right?

* – Including Cory Curtis of WKRN-TV and Justin Bradford of 102.5 The Game.

Duchene dusts off ‘one day at a time’ for Avalanche trade questions

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The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers posted an exclusive video interview with Matt Duchene, who was verbose …

… Compared to the terse statement he provided, without questions, last week regarding what must seem to him like ubiquitous Colorado Avalanche trade rumors.

Check out Duchene’s comments in the video below, which seem to mix saying a lot of the right things – and finding a new way to use the “one day at a time” cliche – with a little bit of edge that makes you wonder how well he’ll contain his frustration in other situations.

How often will he be available for such questioning on the road, particularly in big media markets and/or around reporters covering teams who’ve long been connected to Duchene?

Either way, Chambers’ video is another reminder that, for all the times people roll their eyes at canned responses during press conferences and locker-room interviews, reporters can get less-guarded moments where you can parse out greater truths.

(And, hey, it’s nice to give Duchene a chance to make faces that seem a little less … depressed?)

Chambers transcribes an especially intriguing part at the end of the interview (click here for more transcriptions from Chambers at the Denver Post, if video isn’t an option or your preference).

What if he’s not traded? “I’m not looking that far (ahead),” he said. “I’m taking one day at a time.”

Hmm, interesting, right?

/Refreshes the #FreeDuchene hashtag.

Kings’ power play – with Toffoli on point – is latest nod to modern NHL

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Considering how well the Darryl Sutter-coached Los Angeles Kings hogged the puck, there was a sense that he yielded as much as one could expect from a talented, but aging roster.

With a new regime in the front office (from GM Rob Blake to assistant-turned-head-coach John Stevens), there’s at least one interesting test taking place: what if modern tactics were applied to a Kings team that, structurally, often felt like a “throwback” team?

(Again, to Sutter’s credit, that throwback style worked very well at times.)

LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen reports that the Kings are embracing the modern approach that sometimes scares off more conservative coaches: going with four forwards and one defenseman on a power play.

Rosen reports that the team rolled with Michael Cammalleri, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Drew Doughty on their top unit. In that alignment, Toffoli joined Doughty on the points.

The puck movement drew praise from Rosen:

There was ample movement; such positioning didn’t always remain that way. Toffoli drifted lower towards the half wall, and Doughty often was found straight away, at the top of the key. The plan? More one-time opportunities from high-danger areas closer to the net.

Of course, it’s important to note that it’s September, and the Kings could go a different way once the games count in the standings.

Even if their philosophy stays the same, injuries could force personnel changes. Then again, this alignment leaves a talented forward like Tanner Pearson off the top unit, so it’s plausible that this 4F-1D combo could weather a storm or two. Pearson could also nudge his way in if the Kings believe they need a better balance of left and right-handed shots (and so on).

Checking Left Wing Lock’s listings, it’s clear that his is quite the departure, as the Kings rolled with Doughty plus either Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez in most instances last season.

Los Angeles fell in the middle of the power-play pack in 2016-17; their 19.1 percent rate of success ranked 15th, while their 46 power-play goals tied for 16th in the NHL. They only allowed three shorthanded goals, so for those other numbers to climb, they might have to stomach more risk.

When you ponder how much the Kings struggle to score at times, it might be worth it.

For more on the pros and cons of putting a forward on the point, check out Matt Cane’s 2015 bit for Hockey Graphs.