Chris Kreider cemented himself as all-time great Rangers playoff performer

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

If the New York Rangers so choose, Chris Kreider’s No. 20 can go into the Madison Square Garden rafters immediately.

Kreider, who burst onto the scene back in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a rookie fresh out of Boston College, has been nothing short of playoff royalty for the Rangers since.

That playoff legacy was cemented on Thursday night in Raleigh with a third-period natural hat trick to turn a bleak 3-1 deficit into an incredible 5-3 series-clinching win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Carolina Hurricanes.

“Before the third period, he said ‘I know I’m going to get one here,’ and he goes out and gets three. He’s clutch and comes up big every time,” Rangers forward Barclay Goodrow said after he followed up Kreider’s heroics with an empty-net goal that send the Rangers flying into the Eastern Conference Final for the second time in three seasons.

Kreider’s natural hat trick was the first Rangers hat trick in a playoff game since Derick Brassard back in the 2015 Eastern Conference Final, also in Game 6 if you recall.

The sheer improbability of the Rangers comeback, sparked by Kreider, can be summed up in one sentence. It was the first time the Rangers had won a road playoff game when trailing heading into the third period since Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Final against the New Jersey Devils.

What else happened in that game? Captain Mark Messier potted a third-period natural hat trick to send that series to an epic Game 7. You remember, Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!

“He put us on his back,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “At the end of the day, we needed to score goals, and this is what he does. This is what he did tonight. It was a pretty unbelievable performance by him.”

Related: Rangers Recall: A guarantee & called shot to finish off Hurricanes

Chris Kreider burnishes legacy with Rangers after Game 6 hat trick against Hurricanes

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

When the Rangers needed their stars to shine the brightest on Thursday, the Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and Jack Roslovic line did just that. At even strength. the three linemates posted an xG% over 68 percent (meaning 68 percent of the chances when they were on the ice went the Rangers way.) That’s pretty darn good considering how relentless the Hurricanes were playing.

Kreider scored three goals in a span of 8:58, two at even strength and one on the power play, including the tying and winning goals. Roslovic had two assists. Zibanejad had one.

His 45th, 46th, and 47th career postseason goals have cemented himself, with or without a Stanley Cup, as one of the all-time, if not the all-time, greatest Rangers playoff player.

“There’s a reason why he’s been here his whole career,” Zibanejad told The Athletic. “He’s done something right. Just the way he’s been on the ice, off the ice, the way he prepares himself, the way he is as a teammate. … He means a lot to the team. He means a lot to me and this organization and this city.”

Those 47 playoff goals are far and away the most in franchise history. Rod Gilbert is second with 34. Hi 74 postseason points are third most by a Rangers skater, behind Brian Leetch (89) and Messier (80).

After 12 seasons on Broadway, the 33-year-old would like to join those two, Leetch and Kreider, in another category. Stanley Cup champion.

Perhaps that will happen this season, a magical one already for the Blueshirts, including the memorable Game 6 win against the Hurricanes.

But for now, Kreider and the Rangers will wait. The Boston Bruins host the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of that series, with Game 7 set for Sunday in Florida, if necessary. Four more wins by the Rangers and they’ll reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2014 and for only the second time in Kreider’s career.

In Kreider’s mind, all that matters, though, is “we get to play more hockey.”

Steven Pappas is a North Jersey native who works as a news anchor and reporter at WHAM-13 in Rochester,... More about Steven Pappas

Mentioned in this article:

More About: