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Chris Kreider Saved The Rangers’ Asses

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 16: Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers celebrates after scoring a goal against Frederik Andersen #31 of the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on May 16, 2024 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Josh Lavallee/NHLI via Getty Images)
Josh Lavallee/NHLI via Getty Images

It would be criminal to blog anything about Rangers-Hurricanes without mentioning Jordan Martinook's preposterous sliding save, one of the greatest skater saves you will see in your life. So here's that.

Martinook's heroism looked like it'd be a difference-maker. The Canes, down 3-2 in this series, had just doubled their lead in the second when the Rangers answered right back to halve it. But Sebastian Aho counter-counterpunched, and it was 3-1 Hurricanes when Martinook robbed Ryan Lindgren, sending the dominant-looking Canes to the third period, visions of a 3-0 series comeback dancing in their heads.

It was not to be. "Knowing that we let it slip like that ... it’s going to eat it us up for a long time," Martinook said.

Chris Kreider, the longest-tenured Ranger, promised his teammates during the break that "I'm going to go get one." He was one-third right. Kreider scored a natural hat trick in just 8:58, just the ninth player in history to do so in the postseason, giving the Rangers the lead and the series win.

The goals were quintessential Kreider goals—up close and ugly. On the first, he jammed home a rebound. On the second, after some nifty puck movement on a power play, an unmarked Kreider got his stick up to deflect an Artemi Panarin pass from the slot. On the third, he was again in his office battling for position to finish off a Lindgren pass, and also the Hurricanes.

The three goals came from a combined 18 feet out, which should surprise no one. Kreider's scoring heat map, per Moneypuck, is hilarious and representative of a career where the lion's share of his work has been performed battling to the net-front rather than on his blade. He's a strong fella with an eye for the puck and a knack for putting himself where it's gonna go. If it's a dirty job, someone has to do it. That so few of his goals are highlight reel-worthy might also explain why Kreider perhaps doesn't get quite the hype you'd expect from a scorer on a New York team; he's third all-time for the Rangers, with 304 goals in 12 seasons, and first atop the franchise playoff scoring list, with another 47. But goals all count the same, whether tap-in or snipe or dangle-and-finish. "At the end of the day we needed to score goals," Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said, "and this is what he does, and this is what he did."

In winning seven straight to open the playoff, the Rangers looked like world-beaters. In two losses and two periods on Thursday night, they looked dead in the water. Fortunes change quickly this time of year, but the recipe for playoff survival and success does not: Your best players have to be your best players. Kreider was in Game 6, and New York is moving on because of it.

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