Matt Rempe #73 of the Rangers and Max Comtois #44 of...

Matt Rempe #73 of the Rangers and Max Comtois #44 of the Carolina Hurricanes have words during the first period in Game Two of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. Credit: Jim McIsaac

RALEIGH, N.C. — In Tuesday’s Game 2 against a formidable Carolina Hurricanes team that is the betting favorite to win the Stanley Cup — a game that went into double-overtime before the Rangers won, 4-3, on Vincent Trocheck’s power-play goal — Rangers rookie forward Matt Rempe played four minutes and three seconds.

Rempe, the 6-8, 245-pound rookie who has taken the league by storm and who became an instant fan favorite after making his NHL debut in the outdoor game against the Islanders in February, didn’t play at all in the third period, or in either of the two overtimes.

Rempe was noticeable in each of his five shifts in the game. He certainly sent a message when he drove the net and perfectly measured his stop so as to gently tap the skates of Carolina goalie Frederik Andersen in the first period, after Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov had earlier tripped Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin. So it’s perfectly reasonable to ponder whether having Rempe in the lineup is worth it if coach Peter Laviolette doesn’t feel as if he can have him on the ice late in the game.

“I just think that’s the nature of the beast in playoffs,’’ Laviolette said at his media session at the Rangers’ practice facility on Wednesday, before the team jetted down to Raleigh for Thursday’s Game 3. “When you get down to it, you’re trailing 3-2] in the third period. Regardless of minutes, it’s about winning that hockey game. And so . . . as I was running the game Tuesday] night, I was thinking about Mika [Zibanejad]’s line coming off, and then maybe Alex Wennberg’s] line was out there playing for 30 seconds, and all of a sudden, there’s an offensive-zone faceoff, and you put Mika back out there.

“You’re just jumping the lineup. You’re trying to tie that game.’’

Laviolette pointed out that there were players on Carolina that didn’t play a lot in the game, either. Forward Max Comtois played 6:19 for the Hurricanes in Game 2. But Rempe is a 21-year-old rookie, and he didn’t play after leaving the ice with 2:33 remaining in the second period.

In cutting his forward rotation down to 11 players, Laviolette was able to give extra ice time to some players like Alexis Lafreniere, who had two goals in the game and who Laviolette said was jumping and making things happen all night. He got double-shifted at times. And Trocheck, who plays on the power play and the penalty kill, often was sent onto the ice as a second faceoff man in defensive-zone draw situations, and led the team in ice time — which is very odd for a forward — with 35:21.

With Rempe out of the rotation, Laviolette left his top two lines — the Chris Kreider-Zibanejad-Jack Roslovic trio, and the Artemi Panarin-Trocheck-Lafreniere trio — together, while throwing the bottom two lines in a blender.

Sometimes, Lafreniere would take Kaapo Kakko’s spot on the third line, and Kakko would drop down to the fourth line, into Rempe’s spot on the right wing. Other times, Will Cuylle would drop down to the fourth line, on the left wing, and Jimmy Vesey would shift from left wing to right, to fill Rempe’s spot.

Given that Laviolette has generally been consistent in keeping his forward lines together, he ended up with some combinations that had not been together before and had not practiced together. But the players had no problem adapting, according to fourth-line center Barclay Goodrow.

“I think that’s just kind of how it’s been like all year,’’ Goodrow said. “On ‘D’-zone faceoffs, we like having a couple centermen out there, so you get used to playing with different guys. If you get stuck in the ‘D’ zone, you’re spending an extended amount of time with those guys . . . you get used to, kind of, just those different situations.’’

There may come a time, though, when Laviolette may want to have a 12th forward available to him in the final period and crunch time, and if he doesn’t trust Rempe to handle those minutes, he may consider a lineup change. He could plug in Jonny Brodzinski, who played 57 games in the regular season after coming up from AHL Hartford in late November, or he could consider 6-7 Adam Edstrom, who offers a lot of the same forechecking and hitting abilities as Rempe, though without the fighting capabilities.

Or, he could insert center Filip Chytil, who missed the final 72 games of the regular season with what is believed to be a concussion. Chytil, who started the season as the No. 2 center, playing between Panarin and Lafreniere, has been practicing with the team since mid-April.

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