At the start of training camp in September, New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was talking about forward Chris Kreider's lower-body strength and power. That discussion referenced a YouTube video of Kreider jumping straight out of the shallow end of a swimming pool and landing feet first on the deck in an impressive show of athleticism.
Vigneault could have referenced that same video when talking about Kreider's performance in the Rangers' 5-1 win Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center, a victory that kept New York's season going and cut Pittsburgh's lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series to 3-2.
Game 6 is Sunday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
In his second game back after missing 19 in a row because of a hand injury, Kreider scored a goal, had two shots, was credited with six hits and created scoring chances for himself and linemates Rick Nash and Derek Stepan by using his legs.
"The fact that for close to seven weeks he couldn't stickhandle, couldn't do anything, obviously was a challenge for him," Vigneault said Saturday. "But that's as good as I've seen anybody respond that hasn't had a full team practice, stepping in and playing."
Kreider returned to the Rangers lineup in Game 4, but like the rest of the team was out of sync. At least he had an excuse; he hadn't played since March 24. But because he had a hand injury he was still able to skate as he waited through the healing process.
Kreider got his timing back Friday, and his legs did the rest.
"You don't want injuries, but it's a fortunate injury when it's your hand because he was skating so much and getting stronger and stronger," Rangers center Brad Richards said. "As you can see, he can jump into that [playoff] pace. He'd probably like to have a little more of his hands and his timing, but when you can skate and you're as strong as he is it makes it a lot easier."