Chris Kreider (Getty Images)
New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider has incredibly deceptive speed for a player his size, and he put it on display Tuesday night, flying past Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and scoring the game-winning goal on Ondrej Pavelec. With the loss, the Jets remain just two points ahed of the Los Angeles Kings in the Western wild-card race, but the Kings have a game in hand.
Part of what makes Chris Kreider a unique player is that, at 6-foot-3 and 226 pounds, he moves like he's 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds soaking wet. Tuesday night, Kreider used his incredible speed to rip past Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and hand the Jets a loss at a time when they desperately needed a win.
The goal came with less than four minutes left in the third period and the score tied at two. After bursting up the left wing boards, Kreider cut into the middle, found a soft spot in the Jets' neutral zone coverage and took a pass from J.T. Miller. With the puck on his tape, Kreider used his big frame to shield the puck around Byfuglien, then, when it looked like Kreider was about to go blocker-side on Ondrej Pavelec, the Rangers winger threw on the brakes and tucked the puck home. Oh, and he ended up in the net himself to celebrate:
Kreider's goal gives him 21 on the season and 42 points in 74 games for the Rangers. It also increased his totals in what has been the best season of Kreider's young career. For Jets fans, however, the goal couldn't have come at a worse time. Even if Kreider had scored this goal in, say, overtime, it would have been better for Winnipeg.
The Jets have lost two in a row and sit only two points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for the final Western Conference wild-card berth. Adding to the seriousness of Winnipeg's situation is that Los Angeles has a game in hand and the Kings arguably have the easier schedule down the stretch.
In their five remaining games, the Jets will have to face the Canucks, Wild, Blues, Avalanche and Flames -- four playoff teams and three tough divisional opponents. The Kings, meanwhile, will take on the Avalanche, Canucks, Flames and Sharks, but also have a pair of games against the lowly Oilers.
It's not going to be easy for either team, but Kreider's goal made things a lot more difficult for Winnipeg.