NEW YORK — Rangers forward Chris Kreider scored his 50th goal of the season Tuesday night, becoming only the fourth player in team history to do so.
Kreider, in his 10th season in the NHL, scored with goaltender Igor Shesterkin pulled during a 4-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in a battle of the top two teams in the Metropolitan Division.
Kreider, who plays on New York’s top line and is a fixture in front of the net during the power play, is in good position to set the franchise’s all-time single-season record. Jaromir Jagr scored 54 times as a Ranger in 2005-06.
For now, though, Kreider, 30, is tied with Vic Hadfield, who scored 50 in 1971-72, and is two away from second place and Adam Graves, who finished with 52 in 1993-94, the same season the Rangers last won the Stanley Cup.
“He’s a special player. He gets in the right position, goes into that front area where nobody is. He does that so well,” said Hadfield, who scored 262 goals for the Rangers and whose retired No. 11 jersey hangs from the Madison Square Garden rafters. “Nobody is happier than me. It couldn’t happen to a nicer kid.”
New York coach Gerard Gallant concurred.
“I think it is awesome that he’s scored 50 goals. It is awesome and it is great to see,” he said. “It’s a great feat and he’s had a great season for us, and it’s too bad we had to lose. But hat’s off to him.”
The Rangers, long known for elaborate celebrations after momentous occasions, didn’t have much time to laud Kreider as his goal trimmed New York’s deficit to just one in the final moments of an important game.
“It’s something that we can talk about probably on another day,” Kreider said after the game. “It’s hard after a game like that. We were in it, we were doing a lot of good things. I think this would have meant a lot more if we found a way to win the game.”
With Shesterkin pulled again, however, Carolina’s Sebastian Aho buried an empty-net goal to secure the victory. The Hurricanes, with 104 points, are now four ahead of the Rangers, and both clubs have eight games remaining.
Andrei Svechnikov, Seth Jarvis and Jordan Staal also scored for the Hurricanes, and Aho added two assists. K’Andre Miller opened the scoring for the Rangers, with his seventh of the season.
Kreider, a first-round pick of the Rangers back in 2009, has delivered one of the more surprising seasons you’ll see from a power forward who signed one of the more questioned big-money deals in recent memory. With a $6.5 million salary-cap hit, and a career that never featured more than 28 goals in any single season, the Massachusetts native certainly had something to prove headed into this season.
But not many in the organization could have envisioned 50 goals, including 25 on the power play and even three short-handed tallies.
Later in his postgame media availability, Kreider was asked if he ever dreamed of scoring 50.
“I dreamed of raising the Stanley Cup,” he said.
Well, the Rangers are well on their way to at least having a chance at that later this year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.