The Los Angeles Kings are 60 minutes from hockey’s version of the Holy Grail and absolute immortality. Jonathan Quick made 22 saves as he teammates battered the Devils and shut down any chance for an offensive outburst as the Kings hammered New Jersey 4-0 in Game Three of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. The win gives the Kings a seemingly insurmountable three games to none lead in the best of seven series, and a golden opportunity to close out the Finals Wednesday and clinch the franchises’ first Stanley Cup Championship in it’s 44 seasons of existence. Alec Martinez, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Justin Williams scored for the Kings who again made the most of the opportunities that were given them with two of their goals coming via the power play. New Jersey meanwhile did have their chances, however went zero for six with the man advantage and frankly at times just looked brutal on their power play. This Devils futility included a failed ”five on three” man advantage late in the first period.
Dropping the Hammer Early- The Kings from the first puck drop up until the final horn were completely dominant. LA’s men in black did everything to make sure their guests from the east felt anything but comfortable inside the Staples Center. The Kings brought the wood with them to the Staples Center Monday Night and delivered 24 hits on the Devils in the first period alone. The Kings if anything may have been a bit too aggressive as Mike Richards and Jeff Carter went to the penalty box a minute apart late in the first period. However, the penalty kill then dug in and along with Quick rose to the occasion and denied shots from Devils Captain Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. The Devils came away with nothing for their efforts despite having almost a full minute of a two man advantage. A tripping penalty to Marek Zidlicky did not exactly help the New Jersey cause as it negated part of what was a four minute double minor penalty. The Devils also brought some wood with them to the ice too however could not match the intensity level that the Kings would establish early. Despite the scoreless tie at the end of the first period, the Kings had pretty much established themselves as the team that would be the dominant one.
No Pitchforks Allowed- The second period saw Quick make one of his best saves of the game during a Devils odd man rush when the possible Conn Smythe candidate denied a point blank scoring attempt from David Clarkson. Just seconds after Quick denied Clarkson, the Kings would get a good scoring opportunity when Dwight King got possession of the puck in the slot and shot it towards Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur who made the initial save. However, Brodeur could not control the puck under his leg pads and King kept hammering away at it. The puck finally came loose behind Brodeur as King was knocked away from the net. However, it was one time junior shark Martinez who followed behind King and swept the loose puck into the net to give the Kings the lead. Brodeur took issue with the officials after the goal arguing the play should have been blown dead, however to no avail as the officials told Brodeur the goal was good.
Ten minutes later the Kings would add to their lead as Koptiar scored on a goal that will no doubt be on highlight reels for sometime to come. Kopitar would take a puck out of the Los Angeles defensive zone and pass it across ice to the Kings’ Williams. Once Williams got the puck across the blue line, he dumped it off to Dustin Brown who immediately sent a perfect feed pass back to Koptiar. With Brodeur trying to slide across the goal crease to follow the puck, Kopitar got the rubber biscuit perfectly on the tape and launched a wrister that beat the New Jersey net minder top shelf giving the Kings a two goal lead. Meanwhile on the other end of the ice Quick was busy in making nine saves as the Devils best attempts to solve him continued to prove to be futile.
A Royal Flush- The Kings dominance would continue into the third and final period as once again the Devils could do little with an LA defense that they could barely cope with offensively. Also working against New Jersey was the Kings who found their offensive gear as they would go on to covert two power play chances which sealed the Game Three victory. Carter would put the Kings up by three with a power play goal, LA’s first of the finals. This was made possible by a cross checking penalty to the Devils’ Mark Fayne. Carter would take a perfect feed pass from Richards then bury the puck again to shelf past Brodeur despite the traffic in front of the net. Just a few moments later Zidlicky’s high cross check to Brown would lead to another power play that the Kings would not miss. This time it was Williams taking a feed pass from Drew Doughty in the slot and following up a rebound off of Brodeur. The Kings now leading by four had more than enough to effectively defuse any Devils’ thoughts about a third period comeback. The Devils would only manage to get six shots on Quick for the period and rarely challenged the Kings after Williams goal.
Next Up: Game Four- The Kings have learned though these playoffs that the hardest thing to do as win the clinching game. If fact, the only blemish on the Kings’ run in this post season is a 1-2 record in Game Four’s, the only win being against St. Louis whom they swept. Right now the Kings are firing on all cylinders and are on the doorstep of history, and they are knocking hard enough to break the door down. For the Kings, the motivation to win Game Four are two obvious things. First, the Stanley Cup will be theirs. Secondly, nobody wants to go back to New Jersey and I’m sure the Kings don’t wish to see the Prudential Arena in Newark again until maybe sometime next season. Right now the way the Kings are going and rolling with destiny, they look like a team getting ready to close the deal. For New Jersey, there is pride and desperation in trying to get the series back to the East Coast for at least one more game. The Devils are a good solid team and they would not have made the Stanley Cup Finals if they weren’t. That said (or written in this case), the Devils are going to have to play out of their minds in Game Four. Even then, the way the Kings are rolling, that probably won’t be enough.
Off The Ice News- In what is probably the first big name to move in what figures to be a busy hockey hot stove summer, the Washington Capitals have traded the rights for goalie Tomas Vokoun to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for seventh round draft pick. The Penguins afterward immediately signed Vokoun to a 2-year contract worth up to $4 million. Vokoun was going into the off season as an unrestricted free agent prior to the trade. The UFA hot stove begins July 1st.
My Two Cents- My Two Cents will return next Monday, June 11th. It’s on a one week hiatus this week for BoT’s coverage of the Stanley Cup Finals. In the next edition, unless the New Jersey Devils engineer the “Comeback Of The Century” (don’t run to Vegas), I will be going over the aftermath of a probable LA Kings championship and the implications for the San Jose Sharks franchise. Trust me, there will be several.
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