LOS ANGELES - Everybody in the sold-out building sensed a crucial moment of the Stanley Cup finals when the New Jersey Devils got a two-man advantage early in a scoreless Game 3. The Devils threw every star and every scheme at the Los Angeles net, desperate for a power-play goal to turn around the series.
Jonathan Quick and his three penalty-killers coolly stopped everything, including the Devils’ momentum.
Nothing has slowed down these Kings during one of the most spectacular playoff runs in NHL history - and now they are one win away from their Hollywood ending.
Quick made 22 saves in his third shutout of the postseason, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams each had a goal and an assist, and the Kings rolled to the brink of the franchise’s first title, beating New Jersey 4-0 on Monday night to take a 3-0 series lead.
Alec Martinez scored the opening goal, and Jeff Carter and Williams added late power-play goals for the Kings, who improved to an astonishing 15-2 in the postseason.
“I don’t think we’re too surprised,’’ said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who has a point in every game of the Finals. “We know we have a great team in here. Before this game, it easily could have been 2-0 for them. It is a tight series, but at the same time, we are really confident with the team we have in here.’’
And with good reason: The Western Conference’s eighth-seeded team has jumped to a 3-0 lead in its fourth straight series - a feat never accomplished in NHL history before these seemingly charmed Kings steamrolled every opponent in their path.
Game 4 is Wednesday night at Los Angeles.
“We’re almost where we’re trying to go, but we haven’t won anything yet,’’ captain Dustin Brown said. “We know what we have a chance to do, though. Having an opportunity to win a championship here could get rid of a lot of frustration for a lot of people.’’
Martin Brodeur stopped 17 shots, but the Devils couldn’t beat the impenetrable Quick or his penalty-killers, who turned aside six power plays - none bigger than a 60-second kill during 5-on-3 play late in the first period that left the Kings’ fans standing and roaring.
“I think the [penalty-kill] was the difference in the game,’’ Quick said.
The relative youngster in black has outplayed the 40-year-old Brodeur, and New Jersey must accomplish just the fourth comeback from an 0-3 series deficit in NHL playoff history to win its fourth title.
“It’s not the best situation,’’ Brodeur said. “It’s probably the worst situation you could be in - no, it is the worst situation you could be in. But we believe in ourselves. We’re going to compete as hard as we can, and the result will be there one way or another. We’re just facing a team right now that’s doing everything right.’’
The Devils had never lost three straight Stanley Cup finals games in the franchise’s five appearances. New Jersey hadn’t lost three straight games this season since late February.
New Jersey has been pretty good in the finals, but nothing has been able to slow down these Kings, who seem destined to become the first No. 8 seed to win the Stanley Cup.