Jeff Carter

Coronation close: Kings blank Rangers, one win away from Stanley Cup

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings as close as they can get to hoisting Lord Stanley’s Mug.

The Rangers, meanwhile, couldn’t feel further away from it.

That was the story from Madison Square Garden on Monday night, as the Kings dispatched of the Rangers 3-0 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, taking a commanding 3-0 series lead to move within one victory of their second Cup in three years.

On a night of storylines, it’s hard to say which was more compelling — L.A. continuing its uncanny ability to grind out results, or New York getting absolutely deflated in what, heading in, was hyped as the biggest hockey game in the city in the last 20 years.

The acts of deflation were plenty, and consistent. Jonathan Quick took the air out of MSG in the early stages of the opening period, saving  what looked to be a Mats Zuccarello goal with his paddle. Then, at the tail end of the frame, Jeff Carter sucked further life out of the arena by scoring with 0.8 seconds left — to give L.A. its first lead of the series.

Even though the deficit was one goal, you got the feeling the Rangers were cooked.

Some of it had to do with that deflating feeling, but most of it had to do with Quick. The Kings goalie put forth his best effort of the Stanley Cup Final — and, really, his best effort in a couple of weeks, given his struggles in the Chicago series — finishing with a 32-save shutout for his first clean sheet since Game 5 of the opening series against San Jose.

While Quick was doing his thing, his L.A. teammates continued to add to their lead.

Jake Muzzin scored his sixth of the playoffs on the power play early in the second period, and Mike Richards scored his third at 17:17 to cap off the scoring for good. While this was happening, New York kept finding new ways to let the air out of the building — the Rangers went 0-for-6 on the power play in Game 3, putting them at 1-for-14 overall in the series.

For the Rangers, tonight’s game was the latest in a series filled with frustration and disappointment. The Rangers blew four two-goal leads in the opening two games in L.A. and couldn’t muster a win despite twice taking the Kings to overtime; on Monday, the Blueshirts failed to take advantage of a loud, partisan home crowd that seemed desperate for something to cheer for.

Looking ahead, the Rangers also now face the prospect of having to deal with a dialed-in Quick, who hasn’t allowed a goal in over 110 minutes of action.

For the Kings, tonight’s game got them to the brink of another Cup, and provided some symmetry. The script is eerily similar to how they won the Cup in 2012. — two years ago, they beat the Devils in OT in the opening two games before capturing Game 4 by a 4-0 scoreline; this year, they again won two overtime games to start the series before capturing the third, 3-0.

The 2012 Stanley Cup Final did end up going to Game 6, though, which begs the question: Will the Rangers find a way to extend this series on Wednesday, or will we see our first finals sweep since Detroit broomed Washington in 1998?

Video: Quick, Richards help Kings take commanding 3-0 lead

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The Los Angeles Kings are one period away from owning a 3-0 series lead against the New York Rangers in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, even if the level of play has been much closer than the most obvious numbers might indicate.

In Game 3, it’s all been about getting some positive bounces and some positively brilliant play from Jonathan Quick. He added to his collection of great saves in this game with a beauty of a save in the second period:

Jeff Carter’s 1-0 tally with less than a second remaining could be argued as symbolic of this game, yet there’s also Mike Richards punching this goal in after another bounce went the Kings’ way:

The Kings hold a towering 3-0 lead going into the third period. The Rangers will need a blistering 20 minutes to even have a chance of extending this game and avoiding a 3-0 series deficit. It doesn’t look like Quick is going to yield in this contest, though.

Video: Carter beats the buzzer in the first period

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Before the first period, Madison Square Garden featured the festive atmosphere you’d expect from the first Stanley Cup Final contest it’s hosted in 20 years. Heading into the first intermission, the crowd was rendered silent by an absolutely stunning Jeff Carter goal.

The Los Angeles Kings enter the middle frame with their first regulation lead as Carter scored with less than second left:

Can the New York Rangers bounce back from this deficit? They have two periods to score at least one goal. If this series’ first two contests are any indication, we could be in for plenty of other twists and turns.

Competition Committee: Embellishment is ‘out of control’

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The NHL’s Competition Committee met for five hours on Monday, yet they didn’t come to a consensus on many major issues. There was one key exception, though: the league clearly wants to cut down on embellishment.

“We feel (embellishment) is out of control,” Campbell said, according to the Canadian Press’ Stephen Whyno.

There certainly were some high-profile moments of perceived “diving” in Game 2 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, particularly in an unusually penalty-heavy overtime. Many were unhappy about a penalty Rick Nash drew on Justin Williams and an interference call Jeff Carter received on Henrik Lundqvist.

Beyond that recent example, few playoff series go by without a fan base accusing the opposing teams of rampant embellishment.

The Competition Committee’s big twist is that punishments might not just extend to players, but the coaches/teams involved, as well.

Of course, some would argue that players might feel the need to “act” a bit to draw obstruction penalties that normally go unnoticed. There weren’t any reports about increasing awareness of “clutch and grab” infractions during those meetings, however.

Naturally, any changes stemming from this meeting would need to pass through some hoops before they become new or altered rules.

Stay tuned for more on that lengthy meeting, from marginal tweaks on existing rules to everyone’s favorite subject of goalie interference.

Vigneault spoke to NHL about Game 2’s non-interference call

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Following Saturday’s Game 2 OT loss, Alain Vigneault was asked if Dwight King interfered with Henrik Lundqivst on the 4-3 goal, to which Vigneault replied “ask the NHL.”

Apparently, the coach took his own advice.

Vigneault confirmed on Monday that he spoke with the league about the incident, but wasn’t revealing any details. From today’s transcript:

Q. Did you have any more communication with the League about the Dwight King goal?

COACH VIGNEAULT: Yeah, I did. It will just be between me and the League.

Here’s the play in question:

Vigneault was upset, but much less verbose than his goalie.

“I’m extremely disappointed on that call or non-call,” an irate Lundqvist said following the game. “They got to be consistent with that rule. We, in the second period get called for a penalty and the puck is not even there. They score a goal and I can’t even move.

“It’s extremely frustrating for them to get life like that. After that, it’s a different game. I don’t expect a penalty on the play but they need to blow the whistle. A goalie can’t move when you have a guy like that on top of you. It’s such an important play of that game.”

As Lundqvist mentioned, the goal came after the Rangers were whistled for a second-period goalie interference call when Benoit Pouliot tangled with Jonathan Quick. In light of that, it’s worth mentioning that Lundqvist did draw a goalie interference penalty during the first overtime session after he got clipped by L.A. forward Jeff Carter:

That call wasn’t enough to appease King Henrik, however, as he continued to take issue not just with the non-call, but the explanation for the decision as well.

“[The ref] said the puck had already passed me. I don’t buy it,” Lundqvist said. “That’s a wrist shot, that I’m just going to reach out for and I can’t move.

“It’s a different game after that. It’s such an important play in the game.”