Dustin Brown has attributed the Los Angeles Kings success this year to the team remaining in “zombie-mode”: no matter what happens, they will just keep coming and coming after you. New York fans have seen these games in a different light. A few unlucky bounces and blown calls doomed the Rangers in the first two games. As if it was right on cue with that last sentiment, in just another bout of hapless unluckiness for the New York Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist, Jeff Carter scored a goal that redirected off the skate of Dan Girardi with .06 remaining in the first period to give the Kings a 1-0 lead, their first lead in regulation of the series. However, unluckiness aside, the bigger story of the first period- and in this series as a whole- has been their inability to sustain the puck in the offensive zone for extended periods of time, especially when holding a lead.
In game one, with a one goal lead heading into the third period, the Kings outshot the Rangers 20-3. In Game Two, New York held two, two-goal leads, but were held without a shot over the final nine minutes of the third period (outshot 6-0 during that span). In the first period of game three, the Blueshirts were only able to muster up four shots on goal. Going back to the rest of the game three highlights, it is important to keep that struggle in mind.
During the second period, it was all about the power play and Ranger mishaps. After the late goal by Carter ended the first, New York did LA a huge favor keeping momentum on the side of the Kings by getting two straight penalties to open up the second. Shortly after, Jake Muzzin found the back of the net, a goal that again unluckily bounced off of a Rangers player, Martin St. Louis. However, after that, New York had back-to-back power play chances of their own to crawl back into the game. However,13 unanswered shots later, all turned away by Jonathan Quick, New York would be left empty-handed and in desperate need of a big-time score. This is where the offensive possession struggles of games one and two and of the first period would come in.
With little time remaining in the second period, the Rangers did what the doctor ordered and New York defenseman, Dan Girardi, pinched down low in an attempt to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Unfortunately for the Blueshirts, the Kings were able to turn that into a transitional two-on-one break, where Mike Richards buried a goal top shelf on the now seemingly fallen and helpless ‘King’. In the game as a whole, New York went 0-for-6 and is now 3-for-44 on the power play at home in the playoffs (1-for-14 in this series). The Rangers had a huge opportunity to score early in the third when off the opening faceoff, Chris Kreider was left all alone on a breakaway, but that would be shut down, yet again, by Jonathan Quick. That essentially took all wind out of the sails of the sold-out MSG towel-waving crowd.
Whether it has been because of poor luck for the Rangers on behalf of tough puck bounces and huge missed calls, the Kings still had to take advantage of them- and they have. The same cannot be said about the Rangers, who in game three had some opportune times to come back in the game, but was simply out-matched by an unbelievable performance in net by Quick. In game four, Dustin Brown will be looking to become the first American-born captain in NHL history to hoist the Cup twice. If the Kings do happen to lose game four, expect the “zombies” to be ready to lift Lord Stanley in game five in front of the home crowd.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles
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