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?

The Buzzer: Mac attack, Barrie impressive

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Players of the Night:

  • Click here for details regarding a clutch night from Jakub Voracek, who played a huge role with two goals (including the OT game-winner) and an assist for the Flyers in beating the Habs.
  • Frederik Andersen was stellar for the Maple Leafs, pitching a 40-save shutout against the Florida Panthers. Toronto only won 1-0, so they needed every save from their franchise goalie. Andersen tends to face a lot of shots on goal, and he’s put out some stellar performances in the process:

  • Two Avalanche players take the cake for players of the night, overall.

Nathan MacKinnon didn’t return to action, technically, on Tuesday. This was actually his second game back.

That said, it felt like Mac was truly back here, scoring the overtime game-winner and collecting three assists to help Colorado scrap its way to an OT win against the Canucks. With this output, MacKinnon has set a new career-high for points, and he has plenty of time to add to his already impressive point total of 65 points (25 goals, 40 assists).

Tyson Barrie was outstanding in his own right, arguably more impressive than MacKinnon. Quite ridiculously, the Avalanche scored all five of its goals on the power play, and Barrie collected a point in all five. He scored a goal and generated four assists, with three of those helpers being primary assists.

Injuries make Barrie’s fantastic work in 2017-18 slip under the radar a bit. With these five points in mind, Barrie now has 36 points in just 45 games. Over an 82-game season, that would translate to almost 66 points.

Highlight of the Night: Another fantastic Nikita Kucherov goal.

Kucherov already has 32 goals and 78 points this season. He edges Taylor Hall, whose fantastic coast-to-coast goal was good enough for a post, but couldn’t quite get it done for the Devils, who fell to Columbus in regulation.

Factoids

You have to love the neat-and-tidiness of Anze Kopitar scoring his 800th point in his 900th regular-season game:

Where do you think Alex Ovechkin will end up once he hangs up his skates, hopefully a long time from now?

So far, pretty good for Dion Phaneuf in Los Angeles:

Scores

Maple Leafs 1, Panthers 0
Blue Jackets 2, Devils 1
Flyers 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)
Lightning 4, Capitals 2
Predators 3, Red Wings 2
Sharks 3, Blues 2
Kings 4, Jets 3
Bruins 3, Oilers 2
Avalanche 5, Canucks 4 (OT)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

U.S. men’s Olympic medal dreams die in shootout

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The U.S. men’s Olympic team will look back at missed opportunities as they recall going without a medal in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

They rode nice play from some NCAA talent and KHL goalie Ryan Zapolski on their way to the quarterfinals, but that’s where the ride will end, as the Czech Republic prevailed 3-2 via a shootout. Petr Koukal was the only player from either team to score during that shootout, even with Troy Terry generating enough T.J. Oshie comparisons to get some encouragement from Oshie himself:

The shootout wasn’t the only area where the U.S. might experience some regrets. Both teams weren’t exactly potent on the power play, with the United States going 0-for-5 while the Czech Republic went 0-for-4. Still, the U.S. enjoyed a man advantage that spilled over from the end of regulation and into overtime, yet they barely created any chances.

From the coaching staff to players, there might be some lost sleep regarding that special teams work.

With this loss, the chase for a medal is over for the United States. Tuesday’s missed opportunities will sting, but many take some good things out of this team’s scrappy run to the quarterfinal round. There are rumors that the likes of Brian Gionta might see some NHL interest after the tournament, too.

The Czech Republic advances to face the winner between the OAR (Olympic Athletes of Russia) and Norway.

It’s not all lost for USA Hockey, by the way. The women’s team advanced to the gold-medal round after beating Finland 5-0.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Flyers keep finding ways to win

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A wave of injuries may eventually capsize the Philadelphia Flyers, but not yet.

With both Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth sidelined – not to mention bad news for power forward Wayne Simmonds – the Flyers are likely to be tested down the stretch. It’s key, then, to grind out wins while they can, and they managed a tough one tonight.

In this specific case, it came down to getting goals from a sniper who’s become far more of a playmaker this season. Jakub Voracek sent the game into overtime and then scored the game-winner in a 3-2 OT win for the Flyers against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. Those two tallies pushed him to 13 on the season, a rare bit of puck luck this season for a player who brought a 6.4 shooting percentage into tonight’s action.

Voracek also grabbed an assist, beefing up his league-leading total to 55. The Czech winger’s dynamic performance helped the Flyers win their third game in a row, extending a point streak that covers most of their February games (7-0-2 in their last nine contests).

Taylor Hall‘s fantastic goal was all the Devils could muster in their game tonight, falling in regulation to the Columbus Blue Jackets. With those decisions in mind, Philly is firmly planted at third in the Metropolitan Division with 72 standings points. They’re even in the running for a round of home-ice advantage, if they can catch the just-as-hot Pittsburgh Penguins.

Heck, they even gained on the Metro’s top team, as the Capitals fell to the Lightning 4-2 tonight:

1. Capitals: 75 points in 60 games played (31 ROW)
2. Penguins: 74 points in 61 GP (33 ROW)
3. Flyers: 72 points in 60 GP (30 ROW)
4. Devils: 70 points in 60 GP (27 ROW)
5. Blue Jackets: 65 points in 60 GP (24 ROW)
6. Hurricanes: 64 points in 60 GP (24 ROW)
7. Islanders: 64 points in 61 GP (26 ROW)
8. Rangers: 59 points in 60 GP (24 ROW)

If nothing else, the Flyers are separating from the wild-card pack, as they have a nice edge over the Blue Jackets, Hurricanes, and Islanders.

Such strong play could empower GM Ron Hextall to add some firepower. Such moves could help ease the loss of Simmonds, and ideally give Philly solid depth when everyone is closer to full strength.

They’ve already taken that step by adding goalie insurance in Petr Mrazek, who should be as hungry as the team he’s joined. It’s truly remarkable how far this team has come since a 10-game losing streak that ended on Dec. 2. No doubt about it, players like Voracek have played a big role in this strong work:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Video: Taylor Hall’s splendid coast-to-coast goal

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You’re not supposed to be able to do this. Not against NHL defensemen, and certainly not against a goalie like Sergei Bobrovsky.

New Jersey Devils star Taylor Hall continues to impose his will with dynamic play, beefing up his Hart Trophy resume as he keeps adding games to his point streak. On Tuesday, he extended it to a whopping 19 games.

Hall did it in style, grabbing the puck near his own red line, then traveling the length of the ice before beating “Bob” on his short side:

That’s the 25th goal of 2017-18 for Hall, who now has 63 points (possibly and counting) in 55 regular-season games.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.