The Los Angeles Kings will try to clinch the first Stanley Cup title in franchise history tonight, when they go for a sweep of the visiting New Jersey Devils in Game 4 at the Staples Center.
After taking the first two games of this best-of-seven series in overtime, the Kings carried a 2-0 lead back to Los Angeles and Darryl Sutter's club pushed that advantage to three games after pounding the Devils, 4-0, in Monday's Game 3 at the Staples Center.
The Kings, who began this amazing playoff run as the eighth seed in the West, have compiled a superb 15-2 record this postseason and will shoot for the second sweep of a seven-game series in franchise history tonight. Los Angeles' first sweep came in the second round this spring, when it rolled past second- seeded St. Louis in four games.
The last sweep in the Stanley Cup Finals was the Detroit Red Wings over the Washington Capitals in 1998. The Red Wings also swept the Philadelphia Flyers a year earlier -- part of a streak of four straight years of sweeps starting in 1995.
Los Angeles entered the league as an expansion club in 1967-68 and is in the Cup Finals for only the second time in franchise history after losing in five games to Montreal in 1993. The Devils, meanwhile, have won three Stanley Cups in their history, but they'll have to pull off a highly improbable comeback to pick up a fourth title.
Only three teams in NHL history have rebounded from 3-0 deficits to win a series and the only club to do it in the Cup Finals was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who rallied to defeat Detroit.
"We haven't talked about the statistics of the situation we're in," Devils head coach Peter DeBoer told the media on Tuesday. "We feel we don't belong in the hole we're in right now based on the way we've played, but we are. Got to stick with it and win one game. That's where it starts."
The Kings, who are 10-0 as the road team in this postseason, improved to 5-2 on home ice after Monday's lopsided victory. Jonathan Quick made 22 saves for his third shutout of the playoffs and the Kings killed off all six New Jersey power plays in the 4-0 win.
Alec Martinez and Anze Kopitar scored in the second period and Jeff Carter and Justin Williams added power-play goals in the third for the Kings, who won their first-ever home game in the Stanley Cup Finals.
It was the fourth time this postseason the Western Conference's No. 8 seed took a 3-0 series lead, making L.A. the first team to achieve that feat since the NHL adopted the best-of-seven format for all four rounds in the spring of 1987.
"We are just trying to win one game here, that's all we are trying to do," said Quick. "We're taking it one game at a time. We came in today looking to win one game and we were able to do that. We are just looking to win one game on Wednesday."
Quick raised his playoff save percentage to .950 and lowered his goals-against average to 1.36, making his case to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP if the Kings can pull it out. The numbers are even better than the sparkling stats that made him a Vezina Trophy finalist in the regular season.
"You need outstanding goaltending to win playoff games. He's given us that," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter.
Martin Brodeur gave up all four goals on 21 shots for the Devils, whose six failed power plays included a 5-on-3 opportunity in the first period.
The Devils only have two goals on 72 shots in this series and 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.
Despite the struggles in this round, the Devils hope to play better tonight with their backs against the wall.
"We will be a desperate team," said Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk. "Our backs are against the wall. We can't lose anymore. We are going to fight through the end, obviously. It's never easy. We're going to fight anyway [to the] last second."
In Game 3, the Kings had Simon Gagne back for the first time since the veteran forward suffered a concussion Dec. 26, but the Devils will be the team making changes heading into tonight's contest. Veteran forward Petr Sykora will take Jacob Josefson in the lineup in an effort to add offense and defenseman Henrik Tallinder will replace Peter Harrold on the back end.
Sykora has two goals and two assists in 15 playoff games this spring, but hasn't played since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers. Tallinder had six assists in just 39 games during the regular season, but the Swede has been out since Jan. 17 due to a blood clot in his left leg.
New Jersey has a 6-5 record on the road in this postseason and had claimed five of seven as the guest until losing Monday in L.A. If the Devils can stave off elimination tonight, then they'll host Game 5 this Saturday at the Prudential Center.
This year's Cup Finals marks the first-ever playoff battle between the Kings and Devils and the teams only met twice during the 2011-12 regular season. New Jersey and L.A. faced each other twice in October and the Devils won both contests.