Chris Kreider finished the regular season as New York’s leading goalscorer, but when he failed to produce anything through two playoff games, head coach Alain Vigneault called him out for being ordinary.
Vigneault’s tactic didn’t really work, as Kreider was invisible in Game 3, and the Rangers ended up losing the game 3-1.
In Game 5, Kreider finally came through in the biggest moment. He recovered the loose puck in his own end and skated it into the offensive zone before getting the puck to Mika Zibanejad, who scored the game-winning goal to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
“You stick with it. You persevere,” Kreider said after the win, per The Post. “I’m not the only player to go through a tough time. You don’t put your head down. You make adjustments. You don’t let the valleys overwhelm you or demoralize you.
“Now we get ready. Now we get to go home and try to end it.”
Since that ugly performance on home ice in Game 3, New York has been pretty good. The Canadiens may have been the better team in the first half of last night’s game, but somewhere around the midway point of the second period, things changed. The Rangers were even better in OT.
If they can keep playing this way and Henrik Lundqvist continues to be as dominant as he’s been through five games, it’ll be hard for Montreal to beat them twice in a row.
The New York Rangers will head back to Madison Square Garden for Game 6 of their first round series with the opportunity to eliminate the Montreal Canadiens.
Mika Zibanejad scored the winner, capping off an overtime period in which the Rangers previously had numerous chances but either couldn’t beat Carey Price or couldn’t control loose pucks amidst the chaos in front of the Habs net.
But in the end, Zibanejad capitalized and New York took an emotionally charged — dirty at times — Game 5 by a final score of 3-2.
The Habs, who received an inspired performance from Brendan Gallagher, who scored and had four hits and five shots on goal, had the lead late in the second period but couldn’t maintain it.
Brady Skjei scored the tying goal with 1:32 left in the second period and the Habs managed only 10 shots on goal in the third period and OT.
While he wasn’t as busy in the second half of the game, credit also has to go to Henrik Lundqvist.
In another epic battle between the goalies, Lundqvist made a huge pad save while facing Max Pacioretty on a third-period breakaway and the game tied.
And when overtime began, it was the Rangers controlling the pace.
Game 6 goes Saturday in New York.
Head coach Alain Vigneault wouldn’t commit to giving Pavel Buchnevich his playoff debut, but it does seem likely that the 22-year-old forward will draw into the Rangers’ lineup tonight against Montreal.
Buchnevich practiced with the power play yesterday. New York is 0-for-10 with the man advantage in the series — just one of the reasons the Rangers trail the Canadiens, 2-1.
“Our power play has had quite a few areas where it hasn’t executed so far,” Vigneault said this morning. “When we finished off the season our power play was giving us momentum, and giving us timely goals. I’m very confident that tonight we’re going to turn it around. Pavel there, or Pavel not there, we’ve looked at a couple of areas. We’ve gotta execute, and that’s what we’re gonna do.”
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Buchnevich was not a particularly big producer on the power play during the regular season, scoring once with two assists in 76:52 of PP ice time. But he’s got the skill and shot to make a difference, assuming he gets the chance.
If Buchnevich does play tonight, it may be on a line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. Those three practiced together yesterday, with Tanner Glass taking turns with Buchnevich.
Related: Vigneault vows a better Rangers effort in Game 4
It turns out the Ottawa Senators didn’t really need Erik Karlsson to take care of business this weekend.
Thanks to their 3-1 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon, the Senators secured the No. 2 spot in the Atlantic Division and will begin the Stanley Cup Playoffs on home ice and have home ice advantage throughout the first round.
The only thing left to determine now is their opponent.
As things sit on Saturday, the Boston Bruins would be their first-round opponent, and should the Bruins defeat the Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon that will lock in that matchup for the opening round. But if the Bruins lose to Washington, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are able to collect three out of four points this weekend against Pittsburgh and Columbus, that would move Toronto into the No. 3 spot and set up a Battle of Ontario series in the first round.
No matter who they end up playing, getting home ice in the first round is a massive step for a team that completely missed the playoffs a year ago.
On Saturday the Senators received goals from Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageu, and former Ranger Derrik Brassard to pick up the win against a Rangers team that was clearly in preservation mode for the start of the playoffs. The Rangers had several key players out of the lineup and the Senators were more than happy to take advantage of the opportunity in front of them, owning a 33-19 edge on the shot chart and pretty much carrying the game.
Craig Anderson stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced, missing a shutout by just 46 seconds thanks to a late goal from former Senator Mika Zibanejad.
The Senators wrap up the regular season on Sunday in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders.
The Rangers have little to play for down the stretch — they’ve clinched the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and know they’re playing Montreal in Round 1 — so head coach Alain Vigneault has decided to rest some veterans.
On Tuesday, Vigneault announced that captain Ryan McDonagh and forwards Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello and Jesper Fast would all sit out Wednesday’s game against the Capitals.
“They’ve all been playing through certain bumps and bruises,” Vigneault explained, per the club website. “So we can at this time give them a couple days here but I’m not exactly sure how things are going to unfold here.”
Vigneault went on to say none of the injuries were significant, and all four will play when the Rangers open up the posteason next week.
That said, it does create some confusion for tomorrow. Here’s what the makeshift lines will look like:
Pavel Buchnevich into Zuccarello’s spot with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider.
Brandon Pirri will skate with Mika Zibanejad and Jimmy Vesey.
The Kevin Hayes unit with J.T. Miller and Michael Grabner was reunited, while Oscar Lindberg will skate between Matt Puempel and Tanner Glass.
New York didn’t unveil what the defensive pairings will be without McDonagh in the mix.
This will be Zuccarello’s first missed game of the year, as he was one of just four Rangers to play in all 79 contests (Miller, Stepan and d-man Nick Holden are the others).
McDonagh, who leads all Rangers by averaging 24:24 TOI per night, has appeared in 76 games, having missed a few recently with an undisclosed ailment.