Chris Kreider provides the Rangers with an emotional lift early by scoring 38 seconds into Game 2.
The Kreid has turned.
After a heartbreaking, last second loss in Game 1, the Rangers rebounded on Saturday afternoon with a 3-2 win to tie up their second round series at 1-1. With a goal, a team-high four hits, and eight shot attempts, Chris Kreider was a big reason why.
The Rangers winger scored just 38 seconds into the contest, capitalizing on a juicy rebound by Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. After tipping the puck into the offensive zone, Kreider dove to the net once Derek Stepan set up Jesper Fast with a point blank opportunity. Holtby was there for the initial save on Fast, but couldn’t react in time for Kreider who cashed in on an empty net to give the Blueshirts the early momentum.
“I was just sitting there, my job was real easy,” Kreider said. “I just had to bang it home.”
Though his early score was certainly opportunistic, Kreider was a beast the rest of the way. He nearly scored on two other opportunities, on a breakaway where the puck just rolled off his stick before he could fire on Holtby, and on a late opportunity that rang the goalpost. He led all Rangers forwards in ice time with 18:27 and made his physical presence known at both ends of the ice, particularly with a bulldozing hit on Alex Ovechkin in the first period and a few headlocks on the Capitals star when play had been blown dead.
“He’s a huge difference maker,” Ryan McDonagh said. “He has a huge influence on the game for us. The way he can skate, the way he can hit and shoot, the physicality. When he’s putting all three of those together, it’s a tough combo to defend for anyone.”
“He’s the fastest player I’ve ever played with, by far, and I’ve played with some pretty fast players,” Dan Boyle said. “He also might be the strongest.”
Fast replaced J.T. Miller on the second line and played particularly well, tallying an assist on the Kreider goal and two hits in his 15:05 on the ice.
“Two guys that are really easy to play with,” Kreider said of his linemates. “Jesper is just a work horse and he never stopped moving the puck tonight. Obviously he had an incredible game on the forecheck and there were countless times when he separated the defenseman from the puck and it really makes your job really, really easy. Play a little less defense, play a little more offense.”
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