In Game 4, the Rangers jumped to a 2-0 lead and had several opportunities to stick a dagger in the Senators, but instead failed to score that third goal and wound up losing 3-2 in overtime.
RANGERS VS. SENATORS
Rangers force Game 7 with 3-2 winBy Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer
A three-goal onslaught in the final 11 minutes of the second period helped the Rangers overcome an early 1-0 deficit and hang on for a 3-2 road victory in Game 6. READ MORE ›
In Game 5, the Rangers were longing for the little offense they had in the previous contest. Senators goaltender Craig Anderson made 41 saves to give the Senators a 1-0 victory and 3-2 lead in the series.
Game 6 had a chance to head in a similar direction to that of Game 4, but rookie Chris Kreider, who was playing in just his fourth career game, drove the stake through Ottawa's heart with his first career goal.
The Rangers had just overcome a one-goal deficit with a pair of power-play goals in the second period, but it was Kreider who scored what turned out to be the winning goal with 40.3 seconds remaining to increase the lead to two and help the Rangers hang on for a 3-2 victory.
It was just the Rangers' third even-strength goal since Brad Richards scored early in the third period of Game 1.
"It's huge, obviously, with the way the score ended up," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "It was a great pass and a great shot. He really wired that. It's great by him. It’s a lot of fun scoring your first, and there's nothing bigger than getting it in the playoffs."
Kreider found himself thrust into second-line duty after playing sparingly in the previous two games with third-line center Brian Boyle out with a concussion and Brandon Dubinsky moved into that spot from the second line. The 20-year-old who joined the Rangers after winning a national title with Boston College just before the playoffs finished a perfect pass from Derek Stepan, who had a goal and two assists in the win.
Kreider had a hard time describing the feeling of scoring that goal.
"It didn't really hit me. Obviously it feels great in retrospect," Kreider said. "I was just really happy we were able to win the game."
When Kreider signed with the Rangers, there didn't appear to be a spot for him in the lineup. But he was forced into action in Game 3 with top-line winger Carl Hagelin suspended for three games. Kreider failed to register a point in any of those games, and he appeared destined to go back to watching from the press box when Hagelin returned.
Instead, Kreider's spot in the lineup was secured with Boyle's injury. Rangers coach John Tortorella praised his maturity in what has been an overwhelming situation for a player arriving on the scene from the college ranks, but Kreider said he's treated every moment as an education.
"It's been a learning experience, a process up until this point," Kreider said. "It's definitely something I need to take a mental picture of, the intensity the guys brought, the way they played. I had a general idea of how they played, the kind of team that they were and are, but from being in the dressing room, it's hard not to fall in love with this group, just the way they work."
Kreider is a bit of mystery to his new teammates, who all describe him as humble and unassuming.
"I think there's a quiet confidence about him," Staal said. "He's coming out of college and coming to a team that's been together all year. It's tough. He's done a good job of fitting in. He's played some good minutes for us. That's a big goal."
One player who was familiar with Kreider before he joined the Rangers was Stepan, who played with him during the World Junior Championships in 2011.
"I know Kreids a little bit further back. I can get Kreids to open up a little bit sometimes," Stepan said. "I usually just go after the BC Eagles. I've been saying it since he's been here -- he has a high maturity level. He's been put into a role he's embraced."
Unless Tortorella decides to go in a different direction, Kreider will get to embrace that role in a decisive Game 7 on Thursday night.
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