NEW YORK — The crowd had started to thin by the start of the third period, the enthusiasm dimmed. Even the half-hearted “Let’s go Rangers” chant died out quickly, as the reality of the situation became apparent. With 20 minutes to go, New York was in serious danger of going down by three games in the Stanley Cup Final.
They had come into the game with grand plans, with hopes of finding a win in a series they believed could just as easily have gone an entirely different way. But those hopes were slipping away, vanishing amid a trio of goals by the Kings and the brilliance of goalie Jonathan Quick.
Madison Square Garden had not provided the haven they were seeking in this Final, and the Rangers dropped Game 3 to the Kings, 3-0, on Monday night, putting New York one win away from a summer of regrets and Los Angeles one win away from a second Cup in three years.
New York’s home arena had provided mostly silence, interspersed with brief shouts of disappointment, of disbelief, of dismay.
It started 20 minutes in — or almost 20 minutes in — as the exuberance of the first Stanley Cup Final game at the Garden since 1994 died with a stunning first goal by the Kings. In that moment, the building went silent. It would not be the only time.
With fractions of a second left — and the clock showing 0.0 seconds — Jeff Carter had put the puck behind Henrik Lundqvist and a diving Dan Girardi. The puck caught a piece of Lundqvist’s glove on its way past, and all the noise went out of the Garden.
The goal was under review, but it was determined that there was 0.8 left on the clock. It was good.
And with that, the Kings led for the first time in the Stanley Cup Final. They had won the first two games in overtime without having a lead. They hadn’t led in Game 7 against the Blackhawks either, demonstrating an impressive resiliency after going down by two goals in each of those three games.
This time, it was the Rangers finding themselves in a 2-0 hole, after a point shot by Jake Muzzin deflected off Martin St. Louis 4:17 of the second period. The Kings had gone on the power play after the second consecutive high-sticking penalty earned by the Rangers, the first by Ryan McDonagh, the second by Marc Staal.
The building again went silent. The Rangers were now trailing by two games and two goals as they attempted to solve a seemingly rejuvenated Jonathan Quick in the LA net.
The Kings got their third goal at 17:14 on a shot by Mike Richards, yet again rendering the crowd mute. Richards beat Lundqvist on a play that started as a 2-on-1. He tried to pass the puck, but it was blocked back to him. So with some room to Lundqvist’s stick side, Richards shot and scored.
The best chance for the Rangers came at 12:37 of the first period as Mats Zuccarello nearly beat Quick to open the scoring. Zuccarello had the puck on the left side of the crease with Quick at the top. The net was empty and waiting, but Quick somehow managed to get his stick back to the goal line, the stick and the post deflecting the shot away from his net.
They had another near miss halfway through the second period, with Quick robbing Derick Brassard with his outstretched stick, leaving the Ranger cursing his missed chance.
Drew Doughty took a hooking penalty to save another Rangers chance at 11:53 of the period on what looked like a sure goal from Rick Nash as he curled around the back of the net. It proved to be the right play, as the Rangers weren’t able to convert on the power play.
The Rangers played the final 4:21 of the game with an extra attacker after pulling Lundqvist.