Kreider’s pair derails Subban-less Canadiens

Chris Kreider goal.jpg

Chris Kreider is mobbed by teammates after scoring a goal in a big second period during Rangers’ 5-2 win over Canadiens at Bell Centre. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Rangers won their third straight by posting a 5-2 win over the Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday night. Montreal skated without star defenseman P.K. Subban. They really could’ve used him. The Habs went a dreadful 0-for-6 on the power play which led to predictable jeers from the home crowd.

Even though they didn’t play their best game, it was plenty good enough for the Blueshirts, who were led by a pair of goals from Chris Kreider. He also set up Derick Brassard’s team-leading 27th in a big second period that saw the Rangers break open a tie game by outscoring the listless Canadiens 4-1. Put on a line with Brassard and Rick Nash, the streaky Kreider broke out for a season high three points after going five consecutive games without a point.

”We’re trying to find chemistry between lines right now,” said Brassard of the line tweaks coach Alain Vigneault continues to make. ”Chris is a big part of our team. To see him score two goals like that and be involved in the game, that’s something our team is pretty excited about.

”Hopefully it’s going to give him some confidence. I really like our line.”

After the Original Six rivals traded goals in a seesaw first period, Brassard led Kreider in on Montreal rookie goalie Mike Condon. But Kreider fired the puck wide with it taking a favorable carom off the back boards right to Brassard, who buried the rebound for a 2-1 lead at 1:32.

Following a successful penalty kill, the Rangers went to work on the power play. It’s been clicking lately. They entered with much better success lately. Kreider finished off his first on a beautiful Brassard pass across burying a one-timer at 8:19. Keith Yandle got it started with his team-leading 39th assist. It was also his brilliant outlet that led to Derek Stepan feeding J.T. Miller for his 21st in the first. Miller beat Andrei Markov badly and went to the backhand. Lars Eller had evened the game by beating Ryan McDonagh in front.

Following Kreider’s power play goal, a great individual effort resulted in his second of the game 2:23 later- increasing to a 4-1 lead. Making a good read in his zone, he intercepted a pass and broke in with Alexei Emelin trailing behind. Coming at furious speed, Kreider made a power move towards the Montreal net going to his patented deke and backhand finish. Emelin tried to stop it but Kreider’s strength resulted in the defenseman’s stick sent flying as the third-year forward scored a highlight reel goal unassisted.

It’s when he puts all his talent on display that the 24-year old Boxford, Massachusetts native can have a tremendous impact. We saw it during the Eastern Conference Final against the Habs in 2014. Of course, it can’t be referenced without mentioning the unfortunate incident that KO’d Carey Price in Game One. Ironically, it was Emelin again who got beat on Kreider’s 18th of the season. Albeit this one was minus the controversy.

Trailing by three, Montreal got one back. Following a near miss from Eric Staal, it was a great rush and back pass by David Desharnais that set up Phillip Danault at 15:38. Taking a outlet from Sven Andrighetto, Desharnais went around Marc Staal after beating Dan Boyle and left the puck in front for Danault, who buried it while Stepan left him. Suddenly awake, the Habs came close to cutting it to one but Antti Raanta was sharp. Making the start while Henrik Lundqvist rested for an Easter showdown against the Pens, he made 24 saves.

The Rangers put the game away on the power play. With Emelin off for cross checking, Stepan buried his 18th from Mats Zuccarello and Brassard to make it 5-2 with 41 seconds left in the second. It was their fourth goal of the stanza.

As is their trademark, they didn’t play a good third taking undisciplined penalties. At one point, they were called for three in a row. Right after killing a Dan Girardi tripping minor, Viktor Stalberg went off for tripping. After killing his penalty, Kevin Klein was beat and took his own tripping minor. But the penalty kill was able to kill the hat trick of trips frustrating Bell Centre. Despite all the chances, the Habs were very lackluster and deserved the boos they got.

The Rangers only mounted four shots on Montreal replacement Ben Scrivens. He subbed in for Condon, who gave up four goals on eight shots in the second (5 GA on 19 total).

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Keith Yandle, NYR (2 assists-leads team with 39, must be re-signed)

2nd Star-Derick Brassard, NYR (team-leading 27th, 2 assists-29, 30, continues to perform well offensively-defensively eh)

1st Star-Chris Kreider, NYR (2 goals-17, 18, assist-19, 3-point effort easily his best of season)

Notes: Oscar Lindberg was a healthy scratch for a mystifying sixth consecutive game. Vigneault gave no indication he’ll return for tonight against Pittsburgh. He prefers to see if slumping forward Kevin Hayes can snap out of it playing with Eric Staal and Jesper Fast. They generated some looks but couldn’t connect. Hayes remains a one trick pony holding onto the puck looking for that extra pass. He went without a shot in 17 shifts-13:02. As for Staal, he remains stuck on one goal and two helpers. It isn’t going in for him. Ironically, Hayes has two points all month since Staal’s acquisition. If they can’t figure it out soon, will Lindberg ever see the light of day? In five games this month, he has one less point than Hayes. … Vigneault is sticking with the new cohesive fourth line of Stalberg, Dominic Moore and Tanner Glass. They’ve given him no reason to change.

… Rangers (43-24-8) are up to 94 points. With seven games remaining, they host the Penguins later today. Pittsburgh trails second by four with eight left. They’ve won two of three in the series with tonight’s Easter clash the final match of the regular season. … Pens (41-25-8) have 90 points. One better than the Islanders, who won their second straight with a 4-3 overtime win at Carolina. A game that saw the Isles have all five men back just to get the guaranteed point for overtime. They really need to change the point system. What took place in that final minute was a disgrace. It’s not hockey. Cal “Clutter Clutch” Clutterbuck won it.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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