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Top Shelf: Mighty Kings displaying killer instinct
By Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Despite being down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals after losing two games on home ice, the New Jersey Devils knew that a strong Game 3 performance in Los Angeles could get them back in the series.
Even though the Kings left New Jersey with a 2-0 lead, it didn't seem like the series was over by any means. After all, the Devils at least were able to push L.A. to overtime in each of the first two games and the prospect of a road win in Game 3 did not seem so far out of reach for New Jersey.
Unfortunately for the Devils, the juggernaut Kings went a long way towards killing the will of their opponent in Game 3, taking a 4-0 decision to move a step closer to the franchise's first Stanley Cup title.
On Monday night at the Staples Center, the Kings did exactly what they've been able to do all postseason long. They rode out the stormy portions of the game thanks to another brilliant performance by goaltender Jonathan Quick and then pounced when they had chances to score.
In the end, the Kings were able to take a 3-0 lead for the fourth time in as many series during this amazing playoff run and by the time the clock ran out on Game 3 it seemed like a foregone conclusion which team would lay claim to the Stanley Cup in 2012.
Considering only three teams in NHL history have ever come back from down 3-0 to win a series -- and only once has it been done in the Cup Finals -- the Devils chances at winning it all have obviously been drastically reduced. Add to that fact that Los Angeles is 15-2 this postseason and it seems even more impossible than usual that Jersey will be able to win four straight to pull off the ultimate comeback.
Also adding to the degree of difficulty is how much fresher the Kings appear to be at this point than the Devils. That stands to reason, since L.A. has played only 17 games since the playoffs began in early April. A win in Game 4 would give the Kings the quickest route to a championship since the 1988 Edmonton Oilers went 16-2 to earn their fourth title in five seasons. It would also mark the last sweep in the Stanley Cup Finals since Detroit routed Washington in 1998.
Perhaps the most deflating part of Monday's loss for the Devils was the club's missed opportunities on the power play. New Jersey went 0-for-6 on the man advantage in Game 3 and is now scoreless on 12 power-play opportunities in this series. The Devils even had a two-man advantage for 60 seconds in the first period, but still couldn't convert.
Even more frustrating for the Devils is that the Kings scored twice on only two chances with the extra man on Monday, getting power-play goals from Jeff Carter and Justin Williams to put the game out of reach in the third period. Prior to Game 3, L.A. was a dreadful 6-for-77 on the power play in the playoffs and the inability to score on the man advantage had been the only real weakness displayed by the Kings in these playoffs. If L.A.'s power play stays hot going into Game 4 than it'll be just another obstacle for the Devils to overcome in prolonging this series.
At the center of New Jersey's frustration in this series is the play of Quick in net. The 26-year-old goaltender posted his third shutout of the postseason on Monday and lowered his goals-against average in the 2012 playoffs to 1.36.
To say Quick is in the head of New Jersey's shooters would be an enormous understatement. The Devils only have two goals on 72 shots in this series and one of them was a fluky score that deflected off a Los Angeles player. Things are so bad for the New Jersey offense that if Quick can post another shutout to clinch the series in Game 4 then the Devils will tie the 1952 Montreal Canadiens for the fewest goals ever in a Cup Finals series.
Still, the Devils are doing their best to remain optimistic despite the odds mounting against them.
"Anything's possible," Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador said. "We know the situation we're in. It's a big task ahead of us. But I think when the dam breaks, we need to break that dam quicker than what's happening thus far. We have to come out strong and we have to make sure we bury a couple."
It's often said that the fourth win is the hardest to get in any playoff series and New Jersey has to believe that's true if it stands a chance at extending the Cup Finals to a potential Game 5 in Newark.
If the Kings are forced to return to the East Coast on Saturday, it's not like things will get any easier for New Jersey considering L.A. is 10-0 on the road in the playoffs.
Another away win would give L.A. sole possession of the NHL mark for most road wins in a postseason, but with far greater rewards up for grabs Wednesday night at home, the Kings hope that's one record they never get a chance to break.
06/05 15:09:25 ET
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