NEW YORK -- Players of all ages and experience deal with peaks and valleys during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the rise and fall and rise again of Rangers rookie Chris Kreider over the past month is nothing short of remarkable.
Left Wing - NYR
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 5
SOG: 18 | +/-: -2
Kreider, who joined the Rangers straight from Boston College just before the postseason, found himself glued to the bench during first round before scoring the winning goal in an elimination Game 6 and another in the second round against the Capitals. But things turned sour for Kreider in Game 4 against Washington, when his turnover led directly to an Alex Ovechkin goal and eventually a Rangers' loss.
After scoring his third goal of the postseason and adding an assist Monday night in the Rangers' 3-0 win against the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of the conference finals, perhaps Kreider is back atop the mountain once again.
"The last thing I want to do is settle in," said the 21-year-old rookie. "I don't want to get complacent, especially at this level. If I get complacent, next thing you know I'm a minus-2 and giving Ovechkin a one-timer in the slot. I have got to stay extremely focused, obviously. That's pro hockey, right?"
The Rangers were locked in a scoreless game early in the third period, when Kreider used his pro-level speed to gain the Devils zone and set up defenseman Dan Girardi for the game-winner. Kreider pushed back three players before dropping the puck to Girardi at the blue line.
As impressive as Kreider was offensively, coach John Tortorella was pleased with the winger's ability to bounce back from adversity and play better defensively.
"I think he's been responsible away from the puck, and he's been consistently understanding how we have to play," Tortorella said. "We want him to be instinctive. I think he's done a really good job of that as far as chasing down things, shooting a puck. Obviously, a quick release tonight on his goal. He's played well."
Kreider made it 2-0 with eight minutes left in the third with a power-play goal, snapping a quick shot past the glove side of Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur.
"It's awesome," said Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. "He's got a lethal shot if he gets a second to get it off. Scary things can happen. We just told him to keep moving his feet and keep moving his legs and get in on the forecheck."