This time, the Kings didn't need to stage a comeback after memorable rallies to win the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final in Los Angeles.
Riding a 32-save shutout from Jonathan Quick, the Western Conference champions dusted the Rangers, 3-0, last night at Madison Square Garden in Game 3 and moved to within a win of sweeping the best-of-seven series.
Game 4, and perhaps the final one for the Rangers this season, is at the Garden tomorrow night.
The disappointed crowd grew quiet as the bell began to toll after 40 minutes. At that point, goals by Jeff Carter, Jake Muzzin and Mike Richards and Quick's goaltending had given the Kings the decided upper hand.
Teams leading the best-of-seven Final 3-0 have won the series 25 of 26 times since 1939. Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs were able to climb out of a 3-0 series hole.
Naturally, the Rangers didn't relish those odds. At yesterday's morning skate, coach Alain Vigneault said the Rangers were "going to try to make this a series tonight."
"We have to hold serve, and we know that," Vigneault said at the Garden. Instead, the Rangers' serve got broken.
Things fell apart for the Rangers right at the end of the first period. Carter's shot stunned the Garden crowd into silence with less than a second left. His wrister from the right circle ticked the skate of a sliding Dan Girardi and off Henrik Lundqvist's glove with 0.7 seconds remaining.
It was the first lead for the Kings in regulation in three hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds, dating to Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks.
In the second period, things deteriorated. The Rangers failed on three power plays and the Kings scored twice.
Marc Staal, in the offensive zone, accidentally clipped Alex Martinez with a high stick, and the Kings cashed in.
Marian Gaborik found Muzzin on the right point and his shot deflected off Martin St. Louis and skipped past Lundqvist at 4:17 for a 2-0 lead.
When Willie Mitchell elbowed Mats Zuccarello at 8:13, the Rangers had a chance to narrow the gap, but Quick first stopped Brad Richards and then Derick Brassard on the rebound, and Brassard punched the glass in frustration. Quick also kicked out Benoit Pouliot's backhander with his right pad.
It was quite a game for Quick, who was born in Connecticut and making his pro debut at MSG. He played here as a youngster.
At 11:53, the Rangers got another power play, as Drew Doughty was sent off for hooking, but again they couldn't convert. With eight seconds left in the man advantage, Quick made his 17th save, on a wrister from Brad Richards.
The Kings added another goal on a 2-on-1 break-in. Mike Richards carried the puck down the left side and attempted to pass to Trevor Lewis on the right. The puck caromed off Ryan McDonagh's skate and back to him and he beat Lundqvist, who was leaning the other way, with 2:46 left in the period for the 3-0 lead.
Just before the Kings' opening goal, the Rangers didn't convert a power play when Mitchell high-sticked Zuccarello at 17:42. Through three games the Rangers have only scored one power-play goal in the series.
Zuccarello nearly gave the Blueshirts a 1-0 lead at 12:37 of the first, when the puck was under his feet at the left post and Quick vainly diving back toward him. But it was an awkward take for Zuccarello and his shot caromed of the pipe.