RALEIGH, N.C. -- Chris Kreider did three times better than he promised he would.

"Before the third period started, he said, 'I know I'm going to get one here,'" New York Rangers center Barclay Goodrow said. "And then he goes out and gets three. He's clutch. He comes up big every time."

Kreider, the longest-tenured Rangers player, on the team since 2012, set a new bar for coming up big in the third period Thursday.

He scored a natural hat trick in a span of 8:58 to bring the Rangers back from down two goals and staring at an improbable Game 7 in a series that they led 3-0. He scored all three goals from right around the net, where Kreider has made a career out of scoring, 304 in the regular season and now 47 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference Final with a 5-3 come-from-behind win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at PNC Arena. They will play either the Boston Bruins or Florida Panthers; Florida leads that best-of-7 series 3-2 entering Game 6 at Boston on Friday.

"He showed who he is tonight," forward Artemi Panarin said.

Kreider won the Rangers the series, and in doing so, put himself in some elite company, becoming the third player in New York history, after Mark Messier (1994) and Wayne Gretzky (1997), to score three goals in one period of a playoff game.

Messier did it in Game 6 of the 1994 conference final against the New Jersey Devils, his fabled guarantee game.

Kreider made a different prediction Thursday, even selling himself short.

"He took over the game," captain Jacob Trouba said. "He's shown the ability to do that at times. A lot of guys in here call him The Horse, and that's what he is. He took off in that third period and took over the game for us."

Kreider was too coy to talk about himself, what he did, what it means to him as the longest-tenured Rangers player, or even what he said in between the second and third periods.

"I just think as a group we raised our level, we started to get pucks at the net and I just tried to get there," he said.

But Goodrow brought up Kreider’s prediction in the dressing room after the game, and Vincent Trocheck, sitting to Kreider's right in the postgame press conference, confirmed it.

"Yes, he did say it," Trocheck said.

And when he said it, what did you think?

"I said, 'I sure hope so,'" Trocheck said.

What's amazing is there was some doubt about whether Kreider would even be available to play in Game 6.

He didn't participate in the Rangers' full-team practice Wednesday. The team said it was for maintenance reasons, but coach Peter Laviolette didn't exactly inspire confidence when he said after practice that he was "hoping it is just normal playoff maintenance."

The hesitation in his voice led to some speculation that Kreider might not be able to play. But he was on the ice Thursday morning and said he was good to go, quelling speculation.

And then he delivered.

"That was clutch," Trocheck said. "I think we were a little down on ourselves after the second period and obviously didn't love the way we were playing the first two periods, but whenever you're in a spot like that, you need your big players to come up big and Chris did that."

NYR@CAR R2, Gm6: Kreider nets three goals in the 3rd period

Kreider started the Rangers comeback by jamming the puck in at the right post at 6:43 to cut Carolina's lead to 3-2.

That ignited their confidence after a forgettable first 40 minutes.

"I, to be honest, felt nervous on the bench when we were a couple goals down," Panarin said.

Igor Shesterkin made a massive save on Jordan Staal, who had a point-blank look from in front of the net at 10:09, preventing the Hurricanes from retaking the two-goal lead.

Staal then took a cross-checking penalty on Mika Zibanejad behind Carolina's net at 10:58, giving the Rangers power play its second chance of the game.

They came up with nothing on their first chance that was limited to 43 seconds in the second period because, of all players, Kreider cross-checked Seth Jarvis, who scored on the Hurricanes' ensuing power play to make it 2-0 at 4:38.

To say Kreider made up for it would be the understatement of the series.

"That's how a leader should do it, and he did it," Panarin said.

Panarin circled the zone and eventually got the puck from Trocheck high between the circles. He took a shot and Kreider quickly got his stick up to score on a netfront deflection at 11:54 to make it 3-3.

The Rangers had been shut out on their previous nine power plays. What changed?

"Chris Kreider wake up," Panarin said, smiling.

Less than four minutes later, Kreider was again stationed at the front of the net, his stick on the ice, inside position on Jalen Chatfield. Ryan Lindgren took the puck around the net and wrapped a pass around the right post right to Kreider's tape. He banged it in to make it 4-3 with 4:19 left.

Goodrow sealed it with an empty-net goal at 19:11.

"That is just a monster third period," Laviolette said of Kreider's performance. "I mean, he put it on his back and he really delivered. It was more than him, but at the end of the day we needed to score goals and this is what he does and this is what he did tonight. It was a pretty unbelievable performance by him, especially for a guy who wasn't on the ice yesterday. To come back and throw in a game like that, throw in a third period like that, it's pretty special."

Three times special.