Jonathan Quick is the reason the Kings are 1 win from Stanley Cup

Paul Bereswill

He's been viewed as the Kings' one weakness this playoff run, but on Monday night, Jonathan Quick was undoubtedly Los Angeles' best player.

NEW YORK -- Jonathan Quick wasn't a lot of things heading into Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

He wasn't the same caliber goalie who had led the Kings to a championship in 2012, putting in such a stellar postseason he was awarded the Conn Smythe. He wasn't the biggest reason the Kings had advanced three rounds in this year's playoffs and were halfway to their second Cup in three years. And he wasn't nearly at the level of his counterpart, Henrik Lundqvist.

But then, on Monday night, if only for 60 minutes, he simply was.

Despite being outshot 32-15, the Kings stole Game 3 at Madison Square Garden 3-0 to take a likewise series advantage. From start to finish, Quick was the best player on the ice, en route to his second shutout this postseason.

"He made a bunch of big saves in the first. Gave us a chance to get the lead for him," teammate Mike Richards, who scored the Kings' final goal of the game, said afterward. "When he's on top of his game, which he is most of the time, I think that allows us to make plays with confidence."

While the first period on Monday lacked the pace of Games 1 and 2, it looked as if -- like both contests at the Staples Center -- New York would strike first. A shot directed toward goal by John Moore fell into the lap of Mats Zuccarello with only an empty crease to beat, until a sprawling Quick got enough of the try with his stick to keep it out.

Quicksave3_medium

"[We] couldn't score," said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault in the postgame. "[Quick] was obviously the best player on the ice tonight."

Then in the second, it appeared the Rangers would halve their deficit after a Dan Girardi point shot deflected off Anze Kopitar in the slot, and perfectly onto the stick of Derick Brassard. But again, with only his reactions and athleticism to go off, Quick managed to get a piece of the puck with his stick, keeping Los Angeles' lead at 2-0.

In all, the Milford, Conn. native turned aside 17 shots in a frantic second period that the Kings escaped leading 3-0. While it was the most shots and chances Los Angeles has allowed over any stretch against New York this series, there was almost a quiet confidence to the Kings with Quick backstopping them so efficiently.

"When we can make plays, knowing if something happens, he's back there to save us," said Richards. "When we start making plays and we're confident with the puck, I think that's when we play our best."

The contest was touted as a homecoming of sorts for the semi-local product, who despite being a pro for seven years now had never played at Madison Square Garden before Monday night. Well, at least that's what everyone thought.

"They had a peewee championship team that goes to the Québec tournament," said a chuckling Quick. "We did a shootout in between periods. To all you guys that said I never played here, I did play here once."

Maybe being under siege as a 12-year-old on the Madison Square Garden ice helped put Quick at ease come Game 3. Maybe the former playoff MVP was tired of the criticism he'd faced through Los Angeles' first 23 playoff tilts. Maybe he just locked in for a night, as any capable NHL goaltender can do at any time.

What's clear though, is on the cuso of yet another championship, 60 minutes from again hoisting Lord Stanley, if Quick can replicate his Monday night performance, it's only a matter of time. Even if Quick isn't showing his cards.

Can he taste it?

"Nope."

Is he excited?

"I would say it's an exciting time of the year. It was exciting against San Jose. It's why you play hockey, to play in the playoffs. Obviously nothing's done, nothing's finished. We still have a lot to work to do. We do know the fourth is always the most difficult, so we have a lot of work to do."

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