OTTAWA, CANADA - APRIL 23: Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers skates with the puck while being chased by Zenon Konopka #28 of the Ottawa Senators in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scotiabank Place on April 23, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The Rangers defeated the Senators 3-2. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
The New York Rangers had their backs against the wall Monday night, and with the season on the line they came through with a 3-2 win to force a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden Thursday. After going six and a half periods without a goal, the Rangers' offense exploded for three goals in the second period for a 3-1 lead. It turned out they would need every one of them.
Rangers rookie Chris Kreider was the guy who scored the third goal, burying a perfect cross-ice feed from Derek Stepan into the back of the net. It was the first goal of his budding career. It was the first playoff goal of his career. It was the first game-winning goal of his career.
But the goal was more than just a big goal in a big spot. It was a gargantuan goal in a gargantuan spot. It's a goal that saved the Rangers' season, at least for one more game.
Who said this kid wasn't suppose to be a savior?
Join me after the jump for more.Expectations for Kreider were tempered from the start. No one even knew if he was going to play after he signed his entry level contract with the New York Rangers after winning a national championship with Boston College. But then Carl Hagelin got suspended and the Rangers' most brilliant diamond from the farm was on the ice and on the first line.
Kreider played 11 minutes in his first game, a big 1-0 victory for the Rangers in Game 3. He missed a puck sitting in the crease with the net yawning, but aside from that he covered the point well and used his speed appropriately. But despite all the positives he played less than those 11 minutes in his next two games combined.
But after Brian Boyle got injured and was unable to play in Game 6, John Tortorella had to give him bigger minutes. And Kreider simply responded with the best game of his career, including scoring the game-winning goal on the road in a situation that was overflowing with pressure.
Here's the important thing to note, something that's more important than the goal. Tortorella trusts him now.
Tortorella is a simple coach. He doesn't coach to a name or a reputation, but to whichever player earns it. You don't get put on the ice with a minute left in a close playoff game based on the number of zeros that are on your paycheck every week. You earn those minutes. Kreider earned them Monday.
It speaks volumes to how much Kreider has been able to learn and accomplish in his short time with the team. And he rewarded Tortorella for giving him a bigger role in Game 6 with the biggest goal of the season.
Game 7 will be even more pressure-packed, but Kreider has shown he can handle the pressure. Even Tororella told the media that, "nothing seems to faze him." He's shown that in the four games he's been with the big club.
Which makes Game 7, the biggest game of the year, nothing more than another hockey game for him.
No big deal.