This Chris Kreider kid isn't so bad.
The former Boston College forward saved the New York Rangers' season tonight at Madison Square Garden when he redirected home Rick Nash's cross-ice feed just over seven minutes into overtime to give the Rangers a 4-3 win over the visiting Boston Bruins, who still lead this Eastern Conference Semifinals, three games to one.
Game 5 will be Saturday at TD Garden in Boston.
"What a talented player," said Kreider to Brian Engblom of NBC Sports Network afterwards of Nash. "He put it right on my tape."
Nathan Horton and Torey Krug staked the Bruins to a 2-0 lead in the second stanza, before the Rangers tied it on goals by Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan.
After Tyler Seguin put the Bruins back up, 3-2, on a power-play tally early in the third, Brian Boyle tied it for the Rangers with exactly 10 minutes remaining in regulation—on a power play, no less, the first successful one for the Rangers since Game 4 of their opening-round series against Washington.
Kreider, who exploded upon the Stanley Cup playoffs scene with five goals last spring after winning his second of two NCAA titles with BC, suffered a sophomore slump his first full freshman campaign as a professional. Slowed by a bone chip in his ankle, he played most of the year at Hartford (AHL), and scored just two goals in 23 games with the Rangers in the abbreviated NHL regular season.
His head coach, John Tortorella, also hasn't exactly been his biggest fan in recent months.
Kreider had spent much of these playoffs to date on the third or fourth line, but moved up tonight after Brad Richards (one goal in 10 games) was a healthy scratch for New York.
That sure turned out to be fortuitous.
Kreider's first playoff goal of the year, and sixth of his short NHL career, coming on his third shot of the night, turned out to be the game-winner, as he and Nash played give-and-go after the Rangers won a face-off in their own end. Kreider headed into the zone with speed, as Nash pulled up on the right wing boards in front of Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, and waited.
Nash's cross-zone pass got past Bruins rookie blueliner Dougie Hamilton, who was a step behind Kreider on the left side, and the Boxboro, Mass. native merely ticked it with his blade to send the puck high past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (28 saves)—and send the Rangers to Beantown for at least one more contest.
Another 37 saves from Henrik Lundqvist in the Rangers' net didn't hurt their cause, either.
Turns out it was a good night overall for former BC players, at least those wearing blue. Boyle (BC 2007) tied the game in the third period, before former Eagle winger Kreider struck in sudden death to extend the Rangers' season for at least another outing.
Now we'll see what happens when the boys from BC go home again on Saturday. Thanks to Kreider, at least they'll have that chance.
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