Long before Kings fans yelled in unison, “We want the Cup!” as stunning a chant as ever inside Staples Center, the players continued to make it oh-so-close to happening.
It’s no secret how, really. The Kings stuffed the New Jersey Devils power play, blanking them six times on the man-advantage Monday, including a five-on-three that lasted 59 seconds in the first period.
The scoreboard proclaimed a 4-0 Kings victory. History would show they’re in excellent shape with a 3-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final. Their playoff run shows they’ve been doing this same thing for almost two months.
The Kings go a man down because of a penalty, they kill it, they keep winning. They’ve stopped 64 of 69 power plays in the playoffs, a staggering 92.8% success rate. The Devils know how strong that is — they led the NHL with an 89.6% rate in the regular season, a stellar mark compared with anybody but the Kings these days.
The Kings could have been in trouble after Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were whistled for infractions 1:01 apart from each other.
But the Devils didn’t score on the five-on-three, unable to break through defenseman Matt Greene, who blocked a shot by Ilya Kovalchuk, or goalie Jonathan Quick, who stopped three shots on the penalty kill that period.
“After that kill, we were just so happy,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “Everyone started to play a lot better. That was a complete turning point for us. We picked up our socks right after that.”
They’re within a game of giving New Jersey the boot.
Devils Coach Peter DeBoer hated to admit it. The failed five-on-three was big.
“Yeah, I mean, sure,” he said. “We need to get the first goal out, absolutely. Credit to them… We couldn’t get one.”
The Kings became five for five in killing two-man advantages in the playoffs but still had work to do because Carters penalty was a double-minor for high sticking. After Richards stepped out of the penalty box to make it a five-on-four, he atoned for his earlier miscue by drawing a penalty on Marek Zidlicky, neutralizing most of what remained on Carters double-minor.
About the only thing the Kings didn’t do Monday on their penalty kill was score short-handed. Whatever. They’d done it five times in 17 playoff games.
Quick finished with 22 saves for the Kings, who are trying to become the first eighth-seeded team to win the Stanley Cup.
“We wouldn’t be in the position were in, just to get a chance to get into the postseason, if it wasn’t for him,” said defenseman Willie Mitchell, one of the penalty-killers in the five-on-three. “He’s allowed us to find our game in front of him. That’s what great goalies do.”
Quick knew the trick. He understood why the Kings are within reach of their first Stanley Cup title.
“The PK was the difference in the game,” he said. “The PK was huge.”