MONTREAL — Chris Kreider scored twice in a 2:23 span of the second period to break open a one-goal game and the Rangers rolled to a 5-2 victory over the depleted Canadiens at Bell Centre last night.
Kreider, who earned an assist when he fired wide left of Canadiens goaltender Mike Condon earlier in the four-goal second period on a power-play rush and Derick Brassard buried the carom off the end boards, tied a career high for points in a game and a period.
“I tried something new,” Kreider said with a grin. “Don’t put the puck anywhere near the cage. One of the worst assists I’ve ever had.”
And given his frustration at missing numerous solo rushes this season, he joked that his second goal of the period was his “routine first breakaway goal of the year.”
There were plenty of reasons to smile; the win gave the Rangers (43-24-8, 94 points), who have won three in a row and are in second place in the Metropolitan Division, a cushion for today’s game at home against the third-place Penguins, who have 90 points and a game in hand after yesterday’s 7-2 win over the Red Wings.
The Rangers effectively put the game away in the second, although they had to kill four power plays in the third after building the 5-2 lead. After Brassard’s goal at 1:32 of the second, Kreider’s one-timer made it 3-1 at 8:19 and his blocked shot and breakaway score — his 18th goal of the season — at 10:42 upped the lead to 4-1.
“To see him score two goals like that and be involved in the game, that’s something we’re pretty excited about,” said Brassard, who also had three points. “I like the way me, Nasher and Kreids played together.”
The offensive surge — even against a club missing reigning NHL MVP Carey Price and three of its top six defensemen — was noteworthy.
The two power-play goals for the second consecutive game (Kreider’s and Derek Stepan’s at 19:19 of the four-goal second period) was the first time that happened since March 2012 and the Rangers are 10 for the last 31 opportunities. “We’re confident, we’re making plays,” Brassard said. “When things are going well, we’re not talking about it, we just play.”
Brassard’s goal was his 27th, and he became the first Blueshirts center since Peter Nedved in 2002-03 to reach that mark, and he added two assists.
Keith Yandle recorded two assists for the second straight game and has a team-high 39. Nine of Yandle’s last 10 points have been on the power play.
Bell Centre hasn’t been a welcome place but after Alexei Emelin leveled Stepan in center ice, he headmanned a short pass to J.T. Miller, who pulled the puck around Andrei Markov, deked Mike Condon and backhanded it through his pads at 3:04. Miller’s 21st goal ensured that for only the fourth time in the last 11 regular-season games that the Rangers would not be shut out by a Habs goaltender.
“It was good for us to play with a bigger lead than just one goal for a change,” said backup goaltender Antti Raanta, who won his 10th game and sixth in last seven starts, finishing with 24 saves. “Great way to start this weekend.”