Panthers star takes playful jab at Chris Kreider after Rangers’ Game 4 loss

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Tkachuk had a little fun at the expense of Chris Kreider on Wednesday, one day after the pair had to be separated during an on-ice clash during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final when the New York Rangers lost 3-2 in overtime to the Florida Panthers,

Tkachuk and Kreider mixed it up a bit post whistle early in the third period, jawing at each other pretty good. During the spat, Kreider reached over and grabbed Tkachuk’s mouthguard, which was dangling to the side of the Florida forward’s mouth. Skating away, Kreider threw the mouthguard up in the air to Tkachuk’s amusement.

So, what did the Panthers super-pest think about Kreider’s actions?

“I told him that was the best play he made all game,” Tkachuk joked Wednesday.

All joking aside, it was a rough night for Kreider, who didn’t record a shot on goal and is without a point so far in this series. Then the Rangers lost quickly in overtime when Sam Reinhart scored 1:12 in on the power play.

It could have been even worse for the veteran Rangers forward. As Jeff Marek pointed out on the 32 Thoughts podcast, had he succeeded in throwing the mouthguard into the crowd, Kreider would have received a game misconduct.

Related: 3 reasons for Rangers optimism ahead of Game 5 vs. Panthers

Rangers, Panthers stars engage in ‘game-within-the-game stuff’

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Tkachuk, who’s constantly yapping on the ice and has been in the ear of Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin all series, is used to this kind of thing. Kreider is a bit more serious and buttoned up, certainly not known as a pest, though earlier in his career he had a bit of a reputation for crashing into goalies.

So, perhaps, not two choir boys out there.

Probably, more like two players going hard in a tough playoff battle.

“I guess it’s just game-within-the-game stuff, from their side and then from our side,” Tkachuk explained.

And though this may sound like a unique move by Kreider, Tkachuk said he’s had his mouthguard — which usually dangles from the side of his mouth as opposed to affixed to his teeth — ripped away before.

“It’s not the first time it’s happened actually. Normally, they just give it back, I can’t remember. I think the last time, they took it and threw it right back at me,” Tkachuk said. “Is what it is. Game within a game. Playoffs. Gotta love it.”

Tkachuk had an assist Tuesday and has five points (one goals, four assists) against the Rangers in this series.

The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2, with the critical Game 5 set to be played at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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