Rangers left wing Chris Kreider looks on before a face...

Rangers left wing Chris Kreider looks on before a face off against the Arizona Coyotes in the third period of an NHL game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

It’s only January, so NHL statistical achievements must be taken with a grain of ice melt, even more so than usual given the havoc COVID-19 has wreaked on the schedule.

But that is no reason to pooh-pooh what the Rangers’ Chris Kreider has achieved to this point and the subplot that developed during Saturday night’s 7-3 victory over the Coyotes.

It was a Northeast Corridor duel to be the No. 1 goal-scorer in the league, featuring Kreider and the man who has a chance of ending up the NHL’s all-time leader in that category, the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin.

At the same time Kreider was fashioning a three-goal game at Madison Square Garden, Ovechkin was scoring twice in Washington, leaving the two tied at 29 at night’s end.

They are one goal ahead of the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl, who also scored two goals on Saturday night.

So, to review: Kreider, who has had a solid but far from superstar 10 seasons in New York, finds himself battling for goal supremacy with one of the best players of all time and one of the best players of the past several years.

Not bad for the 30-year-old, who next month will participate in his second All-Star Game and already has reached a career high in goals, having scored 28 twice before. He leads the NHL with 14 power-play goals.

Against the Coyotes, Kreider scored one of each flavor — power play, even strength and shorthanded.

All three came the Kreider way, close to the goal, where he can use his big body and savvy to score and/or disrupt opposing goaltenders.

Afterward, Kreider assiduously avoided attempts by reporters to get him to talk about himself or his statistics.

"I mean, guys are just getting the pucks to the net when I’m there," he said. "Really, my job, I’ve said it so many times, it’s pretty simple. Honestly, we joked that I should probably have a few more, missed a bunch of those where it’s just a tap-in.

"So I just try to get there and present myself, and there are so many good guys up and down the lineup who can create and manipulate passing lines, guys who create enough space where they can make those plays. I play with some of the best players in the world."

Coach Gerard Gallant acknowledged that when the season began, he probably would not have anticipated Kreider going toe-to-toe with Ovechkin for the goals lead. But in Gallant’s first season with the Rangers, Kreider has been everything he hoped.

"He knows where to score goals," Gallant said. "He's around that net and he shoots the puck real well and skates well, and he just keeps his game simple."

Jacob Trouba said Kreider has been the same player on and off the ice this season.

"He knows what he’s good at, what makes him good," Trouba said. "A lot of players, including myself, you search for a while to find your identity and your game, find what you’re good at and what makes you good in this league and how to be consistent.

"He’s found what he’s good at and he knows what he’s doing out there and he’s confident doing it and he’s obviously a huge part of our team."

Notes & quotes: The Rangers reassigned forwards Tim Gettinger, Jonny Brodzinski and Anthony Greco and defensemen Zac Jones and Tarmo Reunanen from the taxi squad to AHL Hartford.

More Rangers