close
close

Fourth line Matt Rempe serves as a catalyst in Rangers’ win over Capitals

NEW YORK – The Rangers placed their faith in Matt Rempe on Sunday for Game 1 of their first-round series against the Washington Capitals, with the decision paying immediate dividends.

The captivating rookie scored New York’s first goal of the playoffs to rouse the Madison Square Garden crowd looking for a reason to erupt, propelling the top-seeded Blueshirts to a 4-1 victory in this best-of-seven showdown.

Rempe and his linemates, Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey, were responsible for two of the Rangers’ three goals in the second period. They delivered an obvious upset after an opening period in which Rempe’s first shift ended with a suspicious charging call and their ice time was limited.

April 21, 2024;  New York, New York, USA;  New York Rangers center Matt Rempe (73) celebrates with defenseman K'Andre Miller (79) after scoring a goal in the second period against the Washington Capitals in game one of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Madison Square Garden.April 21, 2024;  New York, New York, USA;  New York Rangers center Matt Rempe (73) celebrates with defenseman K'Andre Miller (79) after scoring a goal in the second period against the Washington Capitals in game one of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Madison Square Garden.

April 21, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Matt Rempe (73) celebrates with defenseman K’Andre Miller (79) after scoring a goal in the second period against the Washington Capitals in game one of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Madison Square Garden.

The fear of deploying the raw 6-foot-4 forward is costly penalties that stem from his anything-that-moves style of play, but his check on Caps forward Beck Malenstyn just 2:07 into Game 1 wasn’t an egregious wrong. in judgment. Rather, it was a sign of what would happen in a tightly managed match.

Series example: 3 questions, key matchups and prediction

A total of six penalties were taken in a scoreless first period – three on each side – but the match started in the second. And it started with the Rangers’ fourth line, which kept it simple, came to the fore and caused chaos around the Washington net.

Breaking it open

Rempe received a heads-up touch pass from Vesey, which he capped with a one-timer from the far post at 4:17 of the period.

Artemi Panarin doubled New York’s lead just 33 seconds later when he ripped a wrist shot past Caps goalie Charlie Lindgren after linemate Alexis Lafrenière had shot Vincent Iorio along the boards to deprive him of the puck and quickly get it to Vincent Trocheck.

That was Panarin’s first playoff goal since June 7, 2022, and the first playoff point after a six-game drought that ended last year’s first-round loss to the New Jersey Devils.

The offense continued and Vesey scored on a faceoff win at Goodrow to make it 3-0. His wrist shot from the high slot was deflected off Washington defenseman John Carlson’s stick, giving the Rangers three goals in a span of 2:06.

The Capitals got one back when a Tom Wilson pass went in off Martin Fehervary’s skate at 7:31 of the second period, but it was a strong defensive performance overall from the Blueshirts. They limited Washington to 21 shots on goal, including just six in a third period.

Chris Kreider put his stamp on the win with a breakaway goal to make it 4-1 with 3:43 to play. That improved his franchise-record playoff goal total to 41.

Stay out of the mud

The Rangers have a clear skill advantage compared to a Caps team that ranked 28th in the NHL with 216 goals in the regular season. They rely on a limited combination of older veterans and inexperienced youngsters, meaning their best chance to upset the Presidents’ Trophy winners is to muddy the water with physicality and irritation.

There were moments when they provoked reactions, particularly a couple of scrums involving Wilson and defender Trevor van Riemsdyk towards the end of the second period, but Rangers mostly kept their heads down and went about their business.

A big part of that effort was their bottom six forwards. The fourth line acted as a catalyst, while the third line of Will Cuylle, Alex Wennberg and Kaapo Kakko also made a handful of effective changes. That’s another clear strength for New York, with a chance for those two lines to dominate their matchups and make it a quick series.

Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:00 PM here at the Garden.

Vincent Z. Mercogliano is the New York Rangers beat reporter for the USA TODAY Network. Read more of his work at lohud.com/sports/rangers/ and follow him on Twitter @vzmercogliano.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Takeaways from Game 1: Matt Rempe serves as catalyst in Rangers victory