New York head coach John Tortorella made the world wait until the last possible moment, but to the delight of Ranger fans and North Shore hockey aficionados, Chris Kreider made his National Hockey League debut last night.
Kreider, 20, filled in for suspended winger Carl Hagelin as the Rangers topped the Ottawa Senators, 1-0, at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, in Game 3 of an Eastern Conference first-round series last night.
The Rangers' first-round pick, 19th overall in 2009, Kreider signed with the Rangers a week ago after helping Boston College win the NCAA championship. According to College Hockey Inc., he's the first player to make an NHL playoff debut immediately after winning college hockey's national title since Tony Hrkac did it in 1987.
Hagelin, who was suspended for three games for a high hit on Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson, normally skates on New York's top line, and his discipline from the league opened up a spot for Kreider.
The Rangers slid the Boxford native onto their top unit along with Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, and he took a regular shift, skating 13 times for a total of 11:11. He also had a scoring opportunity at the end of the second period.
"He did great. It was tough for me and Gabby, too, because we've never seen him play, but we all adjusted," Richards said on NBC Sports' telecast after the game. "He has speed, he's strong, and he handled it all pretty well."
A goal by Brian Boyle, another Boston College product, in the third period and 39 saves by goaltender Henrik Lundqvist were enough to push the Rangers to the win and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Kreider, who led Boston College with 45 points and scored 92 points in three NCAA seasons, registered a hit on his first shift last night and had one shot on goal. With Hagelin banned for two more games, it's likely Kreider will remain in the lineup for the Rangers for at least tomorrow's Game 4 and Saturday's Game 5.