Chris Kreider helped save the New York Rangers' season last Friday when his goal tied Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals with 1:41 left in regulation. He wasted no time imposing his will in Game 6 on Sunday, scoring twice in the first period to spark the Rangers to a 4-3 win that evened the best-of-7 series at 3-3.
Game 7 is Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m.; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) and Kreider is a big reason why the Rangers have rallied from down 3-1 in the series. He scored 40 seconds into Game 6 after picking up a loose puck at the red line and powering past Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen before lifting a backhand shot over the blocker of goaltender Branden Holtby.
"When he gets the puck wide with speed like that, he's one of the tougher players to defend, and I hope I never have to do it, because it looks miserable," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal told the New York Post.
Kreider scored his second goal because he and the Rangers played until the last second of the first period. A roughing penalty to Capitals forward Troy Brouwer gave the Rangers a power play with 3.4 seconds left. After Derek Stepan won the face-off in the offensive zone, Derick Brassard's shot from the point deflected off defenseman John Carlson's skate and trickled through Holtby's legs. Kreider poked the puck into the open net to put New York ahead 2-0 with 0.3 seconds remaining, a goal upheld by video review.
"I was in his wheelhouse," Kreider told the New York Daily News. "I just thought get to the net. Nice bounce. Set up nicely for me."
Kreider's five goals in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games are tied with Brassard for the Rangers lead. He is also the first player in Rangers' history to score in the first and last minute of a period in a playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He has the Rangers in position to win their sixth straight Game 7 since defeating the Ottawa Senators in the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. New York is 13-3 in its past 16 games when facing elimination, including 7-1 under coach Alain Vigneault.
"It's what we set out to do when [the series] was 3-1," Kreider said, according to the New York Post. "It's a great opportunity, so hopefully we can take advantage of it."