NEW YORK – The Rangers were hoping that a New York-area goaltender was going to be the difference-maker in this Stanley Cup Final.
But they were not counting on that goalie being Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings.
Quick, a Connecticut native who grew up a Rangers fan, continued to be a primary factor in the Kings' success as he made 32 saves to power Los Angeles to a 3-0 win that leaves the Kings one win away from winning their second Stanley Cup championship in the past three seasons.
"He was unbelievable tonight," said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. "I thought it was his best game of the playoffs. ... They could have easily gotten back in the playoffs if not for some of the saves he made."
It was the first pro game Quick ever played in Madison Square Garden, located an hour from Darien Ice Rink, where he grew up playing youth hockey. He idolized former Rangers goalie Mike Richter.
BOX SCORE: Kings 3, Rangers 0
"I think it plays a part, being on this type of stage," said Kings captain Dustin Brown. "Being from this area is a big deal to anyone who plays here. And the guy at the other end of the ice is a pretty good goaltender and that motivates Quickie because he is a competitor."
The way Quick played in Game 3 is how he looked throughout the 2012 playoffs when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault called Quick "the best player on the ice."
"Maybe he didn't have to stand on his head like he did in 2012, but tonight he stood on his head," Doughty said. "He's always is our backbone. He always is."
Brown said he doesn't even look up anymore when Quick makes a highlight reel save because it is a common occurrence.
"I used to (look)," he said. "The best example would be at the Olympics when I see other guys react to (his saves) and I'm just sitting there because I've played with him long enough and he's made enough of those saves that I kind of expect him to."
For most of this postseason, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been the NHL's most heralded player. But in this series, the Kings have made King Henrik look ordinary while Quick has made a bushel of big saves.
"He's a big, big part of the reason we are here," Brown said. "He's a goaltender that makes big saves at big times."
In Game 3, Quick made the usually loud New York's Madison Square Garden seem as quiet as a monastery as he made 17 saves in the second period. His goal-mouth stick save on Derick Brassard seemed one part luck and two parts Defense Against the Dark Arts. It was wizard-like.
"It is not shocking," Brown said. "He's been doing this the whole playoffs."
Quick's numbers do not sit as pretty as Lundqvist's impressive overall stats, but he is winning this battle with Lundqvist.
When the Kings won in 2012, Quick was the star of the show. He has been less noticeable in this run because the Kings are scoring goals like they are the 1980s Edmonton Oilers or the early 1990s Pittsburgh Penguins.
With the Kings scoring better than four goals per game for the last nine games, Los Angeles hasn't needed Quick to be spectacular. Still, he's been quite good. Given his team's defensive lapses at times, it is impressive that his goals against is under 2.00 for this series.
It's all about quickness for the Kings goalie. He flies around his crease with panther-like agility. But when Quick is sharp, pucks usually hit him square in the chest. It looks as if he's been parked in that spot for 30 minutes, even though he just arrived a half-second before. That's when you know his positioning is near perfect and he's playing with overflowing confidence. That's how he was in Game 3.
Quick didn't want to play along with those wanting to crown him king of goalies after that performance. He said his only objective all night was to make "one save at a time."
But he did want to have some fun with those reporting he had never played in MSG before. When he was 12, he was part of a peewee team that got on the ice.
"We did a shootout in between periods," Quick said. "To all you guys that said I never played here, I did play here once."
He won't win the Conn Smythe this year, but he's been among the team's best players in this tournament.
The Rangers did score four goals against Quick in Game 2, but they have not solved him. The aura of dominance that Lundqvist had over opponents in the first three rounds seems to have evaporated.
The Kings seem confident they can push the puck past him often enough to win games in this series
"They found a way to put the puck past a real good goaltender (in Game 3), and we couldn't do it," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault.
Even though the Rangers outshot Los Angeles 32-15, right now it feels as if the Rangers are simply throwing darts at Quick. It doesn't seem as if they know quite how to beat him.
PHOTOS: 2014 STANLEY CUP FINAL