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Chris Kreider hat trick completes wild Rangers rally to eliminate Hurricanes in Game 6

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The Rangers took to the final 20 minutes of Game 6 of their second-round series against the Hurricanes as if Game 7 wasn’t an option.

It required one of their signature comeback performances, but the Blueshirts — led by Chris Kreider’s natural hat trick — flipped the script with a four-goal third period Thursday to take a 5-3 win over the Hurricanes and advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the second time in three years.

Kreider, who said during the second intermission that he was going to score before he registered the first hat trick of his playoff career, spearheaded the effort to stun a Hurricanes team that had led for 51:54 of the 60-minute affair.

The Rangers rolled to a Game 6 win thanks for an insane third period. JASON SZENES FOR THE NEW YORK POST

Asked what the victory meant to him as the Rangers’ longest-tenured player, Kreider stayed true to his even-keeled nature.

“It means we get to play more hockey,” he quipped.

There was lots of talk about series momentum coming into this one, after Carolina avoided elimination twice in the past five days.

Most downplayed the game-to-game swings, but there is no denying the Canes were rejuvenated from the moment they scored their first power-play goal of the series — snapping an 0-for-16 skid — to save their season in Game 4.

From there, the Hurricanes just got better and better — as if the Rangers’ uneasiness was directly fueling Carolina’s burgeoning confidence.

The Canes made their adjustments and they were working, but the Rangers had come too far to whiff a third time.

Chris Kreider is congratulated by teammates after scoring one of his three third period goals in the Rangers’ series-clinching comeback win. Getty Images

“There wasn’t a whole lot said after the second,” said Vincent Trocheck, who scored at the 5:29 mark of the second period to make it a 2-1 game before the Hurricanes responded with another score to take a two-goal lead into the final frame.

“It was just that we knew that wasn’t the way we need to play in order to win hockey games in the playoffs against teams like that. We just had to go out there and make a decision in the third period and either show up and play and be a part of the series or don’t. I think we had 20 guys show up in the third.”

A goal from Martin Necas late in the first period put pressure on the Rangers, who gave up another to Seth Jarvis during a Canes power play less than five minutes into the middle frame.

Chris Kreider reacts after he scores the game winning goal in the third period. JASON SZENES FOR THE NEW YORK POST

The Rangers’ second line of Trocheck, Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere had a stronger start than they’d had the previous two contests, which allowed the trio to get their team on the board just under a minute later on the goal from Trocheck.

Kreider later made it a one-goal game at the 6:43 mark of the third period, when he jammed one home to keep his team competitive.

Igor Shesterkin reacts after Sebastian Aho scores a second-period goal in the Rangers’ series-clinching comeback win. JASON SZENES FOR THE NEW YORK POST

The Rangers’ power play, on an 0-for-12 slide dating to Game 2, then came alive to knot it up at three-all. Kreider got a stick on a Panarin shot before the 33-year-old scored the game-winner with 4:19 left in regulation, chipping in a wraparound feed from Ryan Lindgren.

A long-range empty-net goal from Barclay Goodrow sent the predominantly red-clad crowd for the exits.

“This is a special one,” Mika Zibanejad said. “Especially being up 3-0, having a chance to close it out here in Game 4 and we don’t do it, then we get to come home and try to do it in Game 5. We weren’t happy with our performance in Game 5 and just to come to Carolina and respond the way we did — even though we go down and try to battle back — this one is definitely up there.”

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