Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers shoots the...

Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers shoots the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on May 16, 2024 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Credit: Getty Images/Grant Halverson

RALEIGH, N.C. — When Chris Kreider missed practice on Wednesday with what the Rangers called “maintenance,’’ coach Peter Laviolette didn’t do much to quell any anxiety among fans when asked about the veteran forward’s availability for Thursday’s Game 6 against Carolina.

“I’m hoping that today was just the normal playoff maintenance,’’ the coach said Wednesday.

Apparently, it was a fruitful rest.

Kreider scored a natural hat trick in the third period of Game 6 that brought the Rangers back from a 3-1 deficit and eventually to the 5-3 victory that sent the Rangers to the Eastern Conference final.

Kreider’s first goal came when he knocked the puck in off Frederik Andersen’s skate. His second was a deflection of Artemi Panarin’s shot. The third was a tap-in of Ryan Lindgren’s feed.

In the second period Kreider took a cross-checking penalty while the Rangers were on a power play, negating it. Then the Hurricanes scored on their subsequent power play on a goal by Seth Jarvis. that made it 2-0. Kreider subsequently atoned for the error.

Kreider was back on the ice Thursday for the Rangers’ lightly attended optional skate and afterward told reporters he would be in the lineup when the Rangers once again tried to close out the Hurricanes and advance to the Eastern Conference final.

“Yep. Unless they tell me otherwise,’’ he said.

Kreider, the left wing on the Rangers’ nominal top line, with center Mika Zibanejad and right wing Jack Roslovic, has four goals and three assists in nine playoff games entering Thursday and was an integral part of the Rangers’ power play and penalty kill, both of which had been so dominant and such a big part of the Rangers taking a 3-0 lead in the series against the Hurricanes.

But the power play has gone cold the last three games, and Kreider was a minus-3 in Carolina’s 4-1 victory in Game 5. He also was an unfortunate part of the play that led to Jordan Staal’s goal early in the third period that tied the score 1-1 and started the game-changing burst of three goals in a span of six minutes and 23 seconds.

The Rangers were up 1-0 but under pressure in their own zone when Kreider got to the puck along the boards. Trying to relieve the pressure, he blindly whacked the puck out of the zone, but it went directly to Hurricanes defenseman Dmitry Orlov in the neutral zone. Orlov passed the puck cross-ice to a wide-open Staal, who skated unchecked to the goal and backhanded a shot past Igor Shesterkin to start the Hurricanes’ comeback.

Thursday morning, Kreider was asked what the Rangers could do differently in a situation where they were under pressure in their defensive zone, other than just chipping the puck out of the zone, when it might just end up back on a Hurricanes player’s stick.

“Support the puck,’’ he said. “Skate for each other. Make the play that’s in front of you. Don’t overcomplicate it. Communicate.’’

Going into Game 6, Kreider was asked how the Rangers could manage to control the emotions that might have them feeling increasing pressure to close the series out.

“It’s a game,’’ he said. “It’s one game. It’s an opportunity. One shift at a time. Have I hit all the cliches?’’

But then he pointed out that, all season long, the Rangers have managed to rebound from poor performances, like the one they had in Game 5, and play better and find ways to win.

“It’s been a resilient group all year,’’ he said. “It’s something I think that we’ve taken pride in, especially when we haven’t been particularly at our best. We’re able to respond. So, we have an opportunity to respond.’’

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