"I think [Carter's] goal was the big one," Richards said. "We haven't played well at the start and we played a pretty good first period, and to get that at the end of the first period really made us feel good going into the dressing room."
It was Carter's 10th goal of the playoffs, while Williams earned his 15th assist. Both have been major offensive forces. After winning the first two games in overtime, it was the Kings' first lead in this series.
Neither team looked fatigued despite Saturday's 5-4 double-overtime win by the Kings in Los Angeles. There was end-to-end action to begin the game, with just three whistles in the first 10 minutes.
Near the midway point of the first period, Rangers winger Martin St. Louis, so dangerous in the first-round series win over the Flyers, passed from behind the net to Carl Hagelin, whose attempt to stuff it in was blocked by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
It would be one of many outstanding saves by Quick, a Connecticut native who was playing his first game at Madison Square Garden, if one didn't count when he was a 12-year-old peewee player. He finished with 32 saves and kept things simple.
"You make one save and then just try to save the next one," Quick said. "We had a lot of guys block shots and clear rebounds and our [penalty kill] was very good and possibly the difference."
The Rangers were 0 for 4 on the power play.
In the second period, moments after Lundqvist stopped a Carter redirection, the Rangers goalie wasn't as fortunate with the Kings on the power play. Defenseman Jake Muzzin, after receiving a fine pass from Anze Kopitar, scored with 15 minutes, 43 seconds left when his wrist shot from the point went through a crowd and into the net for his sixth goal this postseason.
Carter didn't receive a point on the play, but the screen he set in front of the net was huge for the Kings.
Then Quick took over. First he stopped a Benoit Pouliot rebound attempt. Then on a Rangers power play, Quick turned back a blistering slap shot from Brad Richards and the rebound by Derick Brassard.
Richards made it 3-0 with 2:46 left in the second period. After making a pass on a two-on-one rush that bounced off Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, Richards collected the puck and fired it past Lundqvist for his third playoff goal.
"We are a team that plays a lot different, I think, when we have the lead and we play with confidence and we don't sit back and keep pushing," Richards said.
Quick stopped Chris Kreider on a breakaway just seven seconds into the third period to continue his outstanding play.
"He was obviously the best player on the ice tonight," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said the Kings goalie.