NHL-Kings' Quick saves his best for when it matters

* Quick on verge of second Stanley Cup

* Has come up big when it really mattered

* Teammates laud his performances at the net (Updates after Game Three, adds quotes)

By Julian Linden

NEW YORK, June 9 (Reuters) - As the last line of defense for the Los Angeles Kings, goalie Jonathan Quick is used to being in the firing line, both on and off the ice.

During a marathon run of playoff games where his team played the maximum seven games in all three series en route to the Stanley Cup Final, Quick has been routinely pounded by his opponents on the rink and slammed by his critics off it.

"He's a confident goaltender," said Los Angeles winger Kyle Clifford, who threw a scare into the Kings camp last week when Quick stopped one of his shots during practice in the throat area before leaving the ice in discomfort.

"We have a lot of confidence in him. We know he's going to make a couple big saves every night for us."

Statistically, this has not been Quick's best postseason. Before Monday's Game Three of the finals with the New York Rangers, he had allowed an average of 2.80 goals per game and saved just over 90 percent of the shots he has faced, leaving him ranked ninth and eighth, respectively, among goalies.

Those statistics are well below the brilliant numbers he had two years ago when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player during the playoffs after helping the Kings win the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup championship.

But the 28-year-old has been at his brilliant best whenever it matters, making all the crucial blocks when he needed.

On Monday, he made 32 saves for his second shutout of the playoffs, giving the Kings a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"It's an exciting time of the year," said Quick. "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."

Quick has been under intense pressure throughout the entire playoffs with the Kings needing to come from three games down to win their first round series over the San Jose Sharks.

They went the distance in the second round against the Anaheim Ducks and again in the Western Conference Finals with the Chicago Blackhawks, with the decider going to overtime.

"It's a pretty good feeling as a player to know we have Quicky back there," said Kings center Jeff Carter. "We know he's got our back. We know what he's capable of."

Quick gave up two early goals in Game One against the Rangers but saved the last 15 shots he faced as the Kings rallied to a 3-2 overtime win.

He conceded four goals in Game Two, but then turned away the final 17 shots that were fired at him as the Kings won 5-4 in double overtime to take a 2-0 lead in the series.

"Numbers can be construed either way. You can bend a story any way you want," said Los Angeles winger Justin Williams. "When push comes to shove, Jonathan Quick, just like everyone else on our team, I feel is able to relish an opportunity."

The softly spoken and notoriously cautious with the media goalie is now on the brink of a second Stanley Cup title but was still giving little away despite what looms in front of him.

"You just make one save at a time and you try and get ready for the next one. That's all," he said.

"Maybe it seems like I'm not having fun. Whether you win or lose, these are the games that you want to play. This is why you work so hard, to play in these types of games." (Editing by Frank Pingue/Greg Stutchbury)