Rangers March to Eastern Conference Final After Hard Fought Carolina Series

Chris Kreider's 3rd period natural hat trick, just the 3rd player in franchise history to do so, helped New York overcome a 3-1 deficit in the final 20 minutes to win the series in 6 games
New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Six
New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Six / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

At the start of the 3rd period in Game 6 of their 2nd round playoff series, it looked like the New York Rangers were headed back to Madison Square Garden to off a feisty Carolina Hurricanes team. However, one man's solo effort turned the tide in the most dramatic way possible and sent the Rangers to the Conference Finals for just the 2nd time in the last 10 seasons.

Chris Kreider, the 33-year-old Boxford, Mass. native, a 1st round pick by the Rangers way back in 2009, and a man who has spent all 12 seasons in Manhattan, achieved a spectacular natural hat trick (3 goals in a row by one player) to turn a 3-1 Carolina lead into a 4-3 Rangers lead. The first came at 6:43 of the 3rd period, Kreider's 6th of the playoffs to New York within 1. Then, at 11:54, Kreider added a PPG for his 7th of the playoffs to tie the game with just over 8 minutes left in regulation. He'd put the Rangers in front not long after at 15:41. Barclay Goodrow iced the Rangers' 5-3 win with an empty netter at 19:11, his 3rd of the postseason.

Not only did Kreider singlehandedly eliminate the Canes with those 3 tallies, he also joined the most elite franchise company imaginable. The other two Rangers in franchise history to score a hat trick of any kind in a single period in a postseason game? Mark Messier, the retired #11 for the Rangers, and of course, the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky, during his final 3 NHL seasons. The hard fought 6 game series win sees New York advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, just their 2nd appearance in the last 10 seasons. They will play the winner of last year's Cup Finals runner up Florida or Boston, however that series plays out; currently, the Panthers lead 3-2 with Game 6 tonight.

Kreider may or may not have channeled Mark Messier's own Game 6 heroics as #11 famously did back in 1994, facing a 3-2 deficit to their bitter rivals in New Jersey in that year's Eastern Conference finals. In that game, Messier said the Rangers would win Game 6, and they did exactly that, partly due to Messier's hat trick. Sound familiar? This of course, moved the Rangers to the Stanley Cup finals that year, where they'd claim their first title since 1940 after beating the Vancouver Canucks, breaking the Cup curse that had been put upon them. Don't burn stuff in the Cup, folks. 30 years later, the now named 'Messier Effect' as I'll call it, provides the continuation for the Rangers to earn another Cup, potentially breaking another long championship drought in the process. With the comeback of a lifetime, the Rangers may have finally lived up to the slogan that's accompanied them through the postseason for at least the last few seasons.

There's simply No Quit in New York.