Rangers ride power play to franchise record-tying win over Canadiens

Chris Kreider has owned real estate in front of every opponents’ net for quite some time.

And there the longest tenured Ranger was once again, turning the edge of the blue crease in front of the Canadiens’ goal into his own personal office with another crucial power-play goal in the third period — his third in the last three games — to ignite the Blueshirts’ push to a 5-2 win over Montreal on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.

Mika Zibanejad scores during the Rangers’ win over the Canadiens on April 7, 2024. JASON SZENES FOR THE NEW YORK POST
The Rangers celebrate during their win over the Canadiens on April 7, 2024. JASON SZENES FOR THE NEW YORK POST

“I’ve known about it before I got here,” Vincent Trocheck said of Kreider’s net-front presence. “Playing against him in the playoffs a couple years ago, it seemed like he was scoring from that spot every game against us [the Hurricanes]. Having a guy like that net front, it opens up a lot of space for everybody else on the power play.”

Kreider, who surpassed Rod Gilbert for the second-most power-play goals in franchise history at 109, has actually notched the last four of the Rangers’ third-period power-play goals dating back to the overtime win over the Avalanche on March 28.

It’s largely been a strength of the Rangers all season, considering that the power play was ranked No. 4 in the NHL at 25.9 percent entering the game, and it’s come through at all the right times lately.

Such was the case in this victory, the Rangers’ 53rd of the season and tied the franchise record for the most wins in a single season.

The top man-advantage unit produced two goals, a game-tying score in the second period from Mika Zibanejad and a go-ahead goal in the third by Kreider.

After Zibanejad’s pass intended for Kreider ended up going in to even the score at one-all just nine seconds into the start of a second-period power play, Kreider got a stick on an Artemi Panarin shot to put the Rangers up 2-1 just under four minutes into the middle frame.

Both were ultimately just the power-play highlights of Panarin’s four-point night and Zibanejad’s three-point effort.

“I try to shoot the puck to him every time,” Panarin said of Kreider. “He has good position, tips it, so I like apples, you know? So why not?”

Artemi Panarin shoots during the Rangers’ win over the Canadiens on April 7, 2024. JASON SZENES FOR THE NEW YORK POST

Like the tectonic plate under New York City that experienced the 4.8-magnitude earthquake this past week, the Rangers’ power play is known as the epicenter of their offense.

They may have outplayed the Canadiens — on the second night of a back-to-back — for a majority of the contest, but it was the Rangers’ top power-play unit that carried the offense to start.

Even though the Rangers dominated below the hash marks, generated significant offensive-zone time and unloaded plenty of shots, they fell behind on Cole Caufield’s goal at the tail end of the first period.

To withstand the ebbs and flows of a playoff series, the hot and cold streaks of top players, the Rangers’ power play will need to be a consistent force come the start of the postseason later this month.

Chris Kreider celebrates a goal with Vincent Trocheck during the Rangers’ win against the Canadiens on Sunday. Jason Szenes for the NY Post

“More than just this year, I think they’ve found a pretty solid power-play group,” Jacob Trouba said. “Those guys are tough to defend. I think we see it in practice, they can kind of all interchange and move and make plays. Kreids is pretty good — they’re all special at the position that they’re in I think.

“That’s good for us. They’re going to have to be big down the stretch and in the playoffs.”

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