NEW YORK -- The last thing the Rangers needed to do was help the Kings score.
New York did so on three goals, all of them either deflecting off a Rangers player or getting past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist because he was screened. That was more than enough for Los Angeles to win Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals 3-0 Monday night, moving the Kings within a victory of their second NHL championship in three years.
The worst of all for the Rangers might have been the Kings’ first goal, by Jeff Carter -- and not only because defenseman Dan Girardi’s slide on the ice interfered with Lundqvist’s sight line. That goal came with less than a second remaining in the opening session, a crushing way to end New York’s first home period of the finals. It seemed to deflate the previously raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden.
And, unlike in the first two overtime games in Los Angeles, that goal showed the Kings could jump ahead; the Rangers never trailed in either game until the Kings won both on overtime goals by Justin Williams and Dustin Brown.
"We got sort of a bad rush read on the first, we deflect it into our net," Rangers coach Alain Vigneualt said of Carter’s goal with 0.7 seconds remaining in the opening period. "Same thing happened in the second goal (by defenseman Jake Muzzin).
"On the third goal we played a two-on-one right, take the pass, goes right back on their stick."
And Mike Richards buried it -- burying the Rangers’ chances in the third game, and most likely for their first Stanley Cup in 20 years.
"I am just extremely disappointed that we are in this hole," said Lundqvist, who faced only 15 shots but had little chance on the goals. "We have been talking about it after every game that we played really well, but in the end it’s about finding ways to win."
New York has only found ways to lose thus far, and its performance at home was far inferior to what it provided in Los Angeles. Then again, Monday night was easily the Kings’ best showing in the finals, particularly by Jonathan Quick.
Fortunately for Quick, though, his teammates were not giving the opposition a boost.
Lundqvist wasn’t so lucky.
On the second goal, Muzzin fired a shot from the right point that deflected off Rangers forward Martin St. Louis and into the net on a power play.
Richards finished a 2-on-1 with Trevor Lewis with some inadvertent help from Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh with 2:46 left in the second period. Richards tried to pass from the left slot to Lewis, and McDonagh smoothly blocked it with his skate. But the puck went directly back to Richards, and Lundqvist was out of position to make a save.
With Quick stopping everything, the Kings moved within one win of another Cup.
"It’s not over," Lundqvist said bravely. "We are looking at getting the next game, that’s all we think about right now is that win. In a game like this, every little play matters and it feels like they had the luck so far in these three games where it feels like the game has been pretty even.
"But they have been finding ways to get the big goals at the right times."