SUNRISE, Fla. — Much has been made of the Rangers’ top six in recent weeks, but it will be the Kid Line that sets the club apart down the road.
Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko showed what they’re capable of Saturday night in the Rangers’ 4-3 win over the Panthers at FLA Live Arena.
Working together to pull the Rangers out of the 2-0 hole they fell into during the first period (over which they were limited to just three shots for the second straight game), each of the youngsters had a goal and an assist over the final two periods to secure their team’s sixth win in the last eight games.
It was just the second time all three have scored in the same game, with the last one coming on Dec. 7 against the Golden Knights.
“I think all of us are thinking [we want to prove ourselves],” Kakko told The Post after the win. “We want to play. I feel like we’ve been playing good when we played more before the deadline. But I also understand we have a couple of good players out there in front of us.
“After the goals, we got more ice time because we played good and I think it should be like that.”
The Rangers essentially showed up in the second period after a lackluster first 20 minutes. Once the Kid Line got going, so did the rest of the Rangers.
Head coach Gerard Gallant recognized early on in the second that the trio of youngsters were feeling it, and he awarded them the necessary ice time to capitalize on their play.
First, defenseman Ben Harpur and Chytil helped keep the puck in, which allowed the Czech center to pull off a give-and-go with Lafreniere.
Chytil put a shot on goal and Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky couldn’t get his glove over the puck before Kakko swooped in and put it away to cut the Rangers’ deficit to 2-1 at 8:50 of the second.
Then, Lafreniere took a cross-ice feed from Jacob Trouba, flashed his first-overall-pick hands and sent a backhanded shot behind Bobrovsky to knot the score with 1:45 left in the second period.
After Patrick Kane scored a fluky goal just over a minute into the third period to give the Rangers their first lead of the night, Chytil took a pass off the boards from Kakko, which the Panthers’ Aaron Ekblad fumbled. Chytil then buried it stick side on Bobrovsky to push the Rangers ahead 4-2 at 6:18 of the third.
That goal ended up the game-winner after Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov netted his second goal of the game at the seven-minute mark to keep his team within striking distance.
“Pretty impressive,” Kane said of the Rangers’ young trio, who have all said they grew up idolizing him. “All three of them are so good at holding onto the puck and making plays. I was just saying to Fil, ‘I’ve got to come out with you guys early on the ice.’ Because I know they go out early and they work on that stuff.”
After contributing offensively on a nightly basis at the end of January and into early February, the Kid Line had cooled off for some time. But, boy, were they all over the ice for a lengthy stretch of games.
If Lafreniere, Chytil and Kakko are able to get back to their earlier ways as the Rangers inch closer to the playoffs, the hope is that they’ll be able to carry it over into the big games that lay ahead.
It may have been another bad start for the Rangers, but they ultimately made up for it.
You could say the Kids saved the day.