Kid Line rallies Rangers to comeback win over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. — The Kid Line led the way on Saturday.
Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko scored to rally the Rangers from a two-goal deficit in their 4-3 win over the Panthers.
Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves for the Blueshirts, who won both games on their two-game road trip.
The Rangers (43-20-10, 96 points) reduced their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to two points with nine games left in the regular season.
The Rangers trailed 2-0 after the first period but rattled off four straight goals — by Kakko, Lafreniere, Patrick Kane and Chytil — to take a 4-2 lead before Florida’s Aleksander Barkov scored his second goal of the game at 7:00 of the third period. That goal was scored 42 seconds after Chytil’s 21st.
Said Chytil: “It was 2-0. I think we had chances before [the goal]. And then Kaapo went to the net and scored an important goal and it just . . . we play with confidence all the time, but that gives us even more boost.”
“It feels good, and that’s the way we need to play,” Kakko said.
The score was tied at 2-2 entering the third period when Kane scored a milestone goal on a fluke. He was trying to center a pass to Artemi Panarin, and when Florida forward Carter Verhaeghe reached his stick out, the puck deflected past goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (38 saves) and in at 1:22 to put the Rangers ahead 3-2.
The goal gave Kane 1,233 career points, the second-most among American-born players in NHL history. It was the Buffalo native’s 450th career goal. “It’s nice,” Kane said. “I think I can be a lot better for us. But you know, it’s still cool to reach those milestones.”
After the Rangers fell behind 2-0 in the first period and were outshot 13-3, coach Gerard Gallant swapped the left wings on the top two lines. He moved Chris Kreider with Mika Zibanejad and Vladimir Tarasenko on the top line and put Panarin with Vincent Trocheck and Kane.
It was the Kid Line, though, that sparked the Rangers in the middle period. The youngsters had several energetic shifts dominating possession in the offensive zone early in the period and Kakko got the Rangers on the board when he crashed the net to pop in the rebound of a shot by Chytil at 8:50 of the period for his 14th goal. That got the many Rangers fans in the crowd excited.
“The Kid Line was amazing for us,” Kane said. “And that’s I think one of the reasons we have potential to go deep in the playoffs is the depth of the team. [We aren’t] just depending on Zibanejad and Panarin and Kreider to score every night.”
After Kakko’s goal, Gallant kept putting the Kid Line over the boards, and Lafreniere tied it at 18:15 of the second period on an unsettled play.
The Rangers were in the middle of a line change as they rushed up ice and the Panthers were caught out of position as Jacob Trouba fired a cross-ice pass to a wide-open Lafreniere entering the offensive zone. Lafreniere skated at Bobrovsky, went to his backhand and slipped a shot between Bobrovsky and the near post for his 15th goal.
The Rangers, who had been dominated in the first period in their last game on Thursday in Carolina, again were the second-best team in the building in the opening period on Saturday. Goals by Barkov at 9:15 and Ryan Lomberg at 14:46 put them in a 2-0 hole.
Barkov’s goal, which came when he jammed in a rebound after Halak couldn’t seem to find it, survived a challenge by the Rangers, who alleged there was an offside on the play as the Panthers entered the zone.
After a lengthy review, the NHL Situation Room in Toronto ruled it was a good goal.