How long ago was Chris Kreider’s first Rangers-Devils playoff game? Consider this: It came on current Devils star Jack Hughes’ 11th birthday.
No wonder Kreider is so comfortable with this Rangers-Devils thing. No one else on the roster has been around long enough to have played the last time the teams met in the postseason, way back in 2012.
Kreider, recently turned 21 years old and fresh out of Boston College, scored a goal in Game 1 of that year’s Eastern Conference final as the Rangers won, 3-0.
Naturally, it came on a power play, just like the two goals Kreider scored in the Rangers’ 5-1 victory in Game 1 of the teams’ first-round series on Tuesday night.
And just like the two goals he scored in the Rangers’ 5-1 victory in Game 2 on Thursday night at the Prudential Center.
All four goals came on tip-ins and redirects from Kreider’s customary power-play spot right in front of annoyed goaltenders and frustrated defensemen.
He entered the playoffs tied with Rod Gilbert for most postseason goals in the history of the Rangers. Now he has 38.
He also has the Rangers' record for most power-play goals in the playoffs with 16.
Of the seven active NHL players who are their franchise’s all-time playoff goals leader, Kreider is the only one with that distinction for an Original Six team.
It is the kind of longevity that marks New York sports greats. Speaking of which, Eli Manning was at the game, but representing Devils fans.
In March, Manning’s daughter Ava celebrated her 12th birthday with a ride on the Devils Zamboni.
Maybe the events of Thursday night will shake her allegiance.
Kreider is notoriously reluctant to talk about himself and stuck to that after the game. But his teammates were happy to weigh in.
“He’s one of the best, I think, not only in the league but that I’ve ever seen [at the net],” said Patrick Kane, who assisted on both Kreider goals. “He’s able to get his stick on everything.
“Even in practice, we have a lot of drills where there are shots from the point and he tips everything. He touches everything that comes in. It’s tough to cover that on the power play.”
Said Jacob Trouba, “You’ll find him after practice almost every single day, asking for point shots, being around the net . . . He works on tips. He works on rebounds. He works on positioning his body in the right spots.
“It’s definitely a skill. I know he doesn’t luck himself into those goals. It’s something he practices and works hard at and it’s a pretty impressive skill.”
The game was tied when, with Miles Wood off for tripping Artemi Panarin, Kreider tipped in a shot from Kane at 9:57 to put the Rangers ahead, 2-1.
Later in the second, Timo Meier was called for holding Mika Zibanejad, and Kreider did it again.
He redirected a shot by Kane that popped over Vitek Vanacek and into the net. With four minutes left in the second, it suddenly was 3-1, and the air went out of the Rock.
Kreider scored 52 regular-season goals last season, 26 of those on power plays and many on tip-ins and redirects in front. This season those numbers fell to 36 goals overall and eight on power plays.
He now is the first player in NHL history with four power-play goals through his first two playoff games of a season.
“We’ve seen it for so long now,” Ryan Lindgren said. “He’s so good at that. Not only does he tip it, but just the way he tips it and where he ends up putting the puck. He’s unbelievable at that.”
Things got funky at the end of the blowout, with four players from each team eventually getting game misconducts and the benches thinning.
But Kreider was on the ice to the end, having a grand time. While he would not laud his own accomplishments, he did acknowledge that the process of integrating Kane, a relative newcomer, is showing results.
“It’s not a video game,” he said. “You can’t just throw together lines and expect them to work.”
Regarding the power play, he said, “We’re moving the puck well, we’re covering it well, supporting each other, attacking the net when the opportunity presents itself.”
Opportunities presented themselves on Thursday, and Kreider took them. Twice.