From the drop of the puck the Los Angeles Kings outplayed the New Jersey Devils in every aspect of the game. The Devils came out in game three looking very tentative and apprehensive. The Kings were the more aggressive team, and they played their best game of the playoffs by far.
The first two games of the series could have gone to either team, but in game three there was no doubt the Kings were the best team on the ice. The Kings are playing with so much confidence right now. The Kings have taken control of the series, and for the fourth series in a row they have built a 3-0 series lead.
The Kings have a stranglehold on the series thanks to a 22 save performance by the leading Conn Smythe Trophy candidate Jonathan Quick. Quick played his best game of the playoffs, and he stoned the Devils on every shot they took. Quick has been a stone wall for the Kings during this post season. He was the reason the Kings are in the playoffs going this far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There were two turning points in game three that turned momentum in the Kings favor. The first was the Devils inability to score on a 59 second 5-on-3 power play late in the first period. The Devils could not muster much on their power play opportunities given to them in game three. They were 0-6 in game three and 0-12 in the series against the Kings. Is that more the Devils ineffective power play or the Kings effective penalty kill?
The second was the decision by referee Dan O’Halloran not to blow his whistle on the play that led to Alec Martinez’s goal that opened the scoring 5:40 into the second period. Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur made two saves on Dwight King and felt he had the puck covered, but O’Halloran allowed play to continue. Martinez eventually shoved the puck into the net for the first goal of the game.
The Devils felt the non whistle by O’Halloran was a momentum changing call.
From Tom Gulitti of the Record on the un-blown whistle of the referee:
“That’s a momentum-changing call at the time,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “I hope he’s right. That’s an awful big call if you’re wrong. My opinion on it, as soon as you as you lose sight of the puck, the whistle’s supposed to go. Even if you don’t get it to your mouth, your intent is to blow it when you lose sight. Should be dead puck, so… I’d like to hear an explanation for it. I did not get that opportunity.”
Brodeur and Devils captain Zach Parise both felt that the referee was in poor position and should have blown the whistle. Parise asked for an explanation from O’Halloran and felt his explanation not satisfactory. “He felt the puck was never frozen, Parise said. “That’s why he did not blow the whistle.”
The Devils felt they were right in the game prior to the goal by Martinez. The Devils had a 2-on-1, 22 seconds prior to the goal. David Clarkson and Alexei Ponikarovsky came down into the Kings zone. Clarkson made the right decision to shoot the puck, but the shot was lower than he wanted and Quick made an easy save. A missed opportunity on one end led to a goal on the other end.
Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Justin Williams also went onto to beat Brodeur in a 4-0 rout of the Devils. Kopitar scored another beautiful goal from a pass from Dustin Brown and Justin Williams. Kopitar is the only other Kings player that can challenge Jonathan Quick for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
A sellout crowd of 18,764, a record for hockey at the Staples Center, chanted “We Want the Cup,” as the final seconds ticked off the clock. The Stanley Cup will be in the house for Game 4 Wednesday night as the Devils try to avoid being swept for the first time in their history.
There has not been a sweep in the Stanley Cup Finals since Detroit took four straight from the Washington Capitals in 1998. The Devils will now have the daunting task of trying to the second team in the history of the Stanley Cup Finals to come back from a 3-0 deficit. The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the Stanley Cup. Only two other teams in league history to come back from 3-0 series leads are the 1975 Islanders and 2010 Flyers.
However, the way the series has been going for the Devils, it will seem very unlikely they will come back. But the players in the locker room believe they can do it. The Devils will have to find a way to get more pucks at Jonathan Quick if they want to extend the series past Wednesday.
Note: The Kings have killed 47 of the last 49 penalties taken… Los Angeles with a win Wednesday could be the ninth different team in as many seasons to win the Stanley Cup.