The Rangers have Chris Kreider to thank for not having to wake up Friday to the end of their season.
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Kreider’s goal 7:03 into overtime allowed the Rangers to continue their 2013 campaign following a 4-3 win over to the Bruins in Game 4 of the conference semifinals.
“It was definitely a team effort, especially on [the game-winning] goal,” Kreider said.
The 22-year-old left wing has six goals and three assists in 24 career playoff games, dating back to the 2012 postseason. He finished this season with two goals and an assist in 23 NHL regular-season games while shutting between the Rangers and the organization’s AHL affiliate in Hartford.
“I couldn’t be happier for [Kreider],” head coach John Tortorella said. “You guys [in the media] have been kicking my ass all around, all year long, for [not playing him] and he ends up stepping up and making a big play for us.”
The Rangers trail the best-of-seven 3-1. Game 5 is Saturday in Boston.
“We are very positive in the room and we knew we just had to win one game,” Dan Girardi said. “Now we have to go to Boston and try to win another one. We worked so hard to get the win. It’s one game out of the way and now we just have to prepare to get the second one.”
Entering the do-or-die game, Tortorella made drastic changes to the lineup as Micheal Haley and Kris Newbury replaced Arron Asham and Brad Richards in an attempt to add physicality and energy.
“They gave us some good shifts,” Tortorella said of the newly constructed fourth line. “I just needed another line. I need to get four lines involved. This is the way it went.”
The Rangers outhit Boston, 34-31, and collectively played with more of an edge than they had in the first three games.
“We tried to. We tried to get a forecheck. [Newbury’s] line did a great job buzzing and creating some energy for us,” Brian Boyle said. “There were spurts where it wasn’t there but we just hung in there.”
Still, they never led until Kreider’s game-winner.
Nathan Horton opened the scoring 4:39 into the second period with a power-play goal. Michael Del Zotto attempted to clear a David Krejci rebound, but the puck landed on Horton’s stick and the right wing, stationed at the bottom of the left faceoff circle, ripped a shot past Henrik Lundqvist (37 saves) as he moved to the near post.
Torey Krug’s power-play goal nearly three minutes later increased the lead to 2-0. With Del Zotto in the box for interference, Krug hammered a slap shot from inside the blue line for his third goal in four career playoff games — all in this series.
Then the game began to get weird. Carl Hagelin halved the deficit a minute after Krug’s goal with a soft backhander that eluded Tuukka Rask, who had fallen down.
“It gave us life,” Tortorella said. “It’s funny how it works, huh?”
Derek Stepan tied the game at 2-2 1:15 into the third when he took the puck off of Zdeno Chara’s stick behind the Bruins’ net and tucked a wraparound into the cage.
Tyler Seguin gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead 8:06 into the third period with his first of the playoffs. As Ryan McDonagh’s penalty for goaltender interference ended, Seguin stuffed Dougie Hamilton’s rebound past Lundqvist.
The lead lasted for all of 1:54. Brian Boyle equalized with a power-play goal at the 10:00 mark of the third and the game remained tied until Kreider’s game-winner.
“We did show some character,” Lundqvist said. “It just turned around for us.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.