- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
It was a moment when youthful exuberance met Stanley Cup playoffs euphoria.
Facing elimination in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers were staging a rally. As they had for most of the first-round series, the trio christened “The Kid Line” — 20-year-old left wing Alexis Lafrenière, 21-year-old right wing Kaapo Kakko and 22-year-old center Filip Chytil — acted as the accelerant to turn a spark of momentum into an offensive explosion.
It began with a pass attempt from Kakko from behind the Penguins’ net to Lafrenière, as Pittsburgh defenders closed in.
“You can always try. So I tried,” Kakko said.
“He found me with that backhand sauce,” Lafrenière said.
Lafrenière’s one-timer goal tied the game late in the second period, and the Rangers would eventually win en route to a stunning seven-game series victory. As the goal horn blared, Lafrenière spun away from the crease, punched the air and screamed as he raised his arms to a frenzied crowd that was already out of their seats.
“His emotion in the game, it carried over. With the home crowd that we have, it was special,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said, smiling. “They better do it again next game.”
In most games in this playoff run for the Rangers, it’s been The Kid Line making things happen, if not on the scoreboard than in setting the tone for the veterans on the team.
“We’re having a lot of fun. But every shift matters. That’s what makes it so much fun,” Lafrenière said.
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