WASHINGTON (AP) The kids are proving to be more than all right at just the right time for the New York Rangers.
Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko scored goals just over two minutes apart, jumpstarting a 5-2 victory at the Washington Capitals on Sunday to snap a two-game skid. With the playoffs starting in a couple of weeks, the so-called “Kid Line” is heating up and again could be a difference maker on a long run this spring.
“They really led the way again,” coach Gerard Gallant said. "They’re playing great and they’re playing with a lot of confidence, so that’s a good sign for us.”
The trio of 21-year-old Lafrenière, 22-year-old Kakko and 23-year-old Filip Chytil produced offense for the third time in four games. Chytil, who recently signed a $17.5 million, four-year extension, assisted on Lafrenière's goal to pick up his fifth point in five games.
“You can tell they’re on the same page,” said Mika Zibanejad, who scored on the power play in the third period. "They’ve played a lot of hockey together and they’re having fun. They’re working hard. It’s fun to see them play, and it’s obviously very important."
Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves, including several big ones to continue rounding into form just over two weeks before the first round begins. Chants of “Igor! Igor!" echoed around the arena filled with Rangers blue several times after the reigning Vezina Trophy winner kept the puck out of the net on the way to his 35th victory this season.
“He’s Igor. He does what he does,” Zibanejad said. “We’re just trying to clean up and try to make his life a little bit easier. But obviously when we need him, he comes up with the big saves, and that’s huge for us.”
Rangers fans had plenty to cheer, from Lafrenière's dazzling move around Rasmus Sandin to goals by defenseman K'Andre Miller, trade deadline pickup Vladimir Tarasenko and then Zibanejad. The Rangers moved three points back of the rival New Jersey Devils for second place in the Metropolitan Division with five games to play.
Washington lost a fourth in a row and for the seventh time in eight games, inching closer from being eliminated and ending the team's eight-year streak of playoff appearances. Aliaksei Protas scored to end a 36-game goal drought, and Darcy Kuemper finished with 29 saves.
“We have a responsibility to do our job and do it well,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We didn’t do it well enough. We haven’t done it well enough where we sit in the position that we sit in, so it’s of our own doing where we’re at right now and we can be better.”
NOTES: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin got a 10-minute misconduct for a series of stick infractions that set off a couple of fights late in the game. ... Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren was out for the 17th time in 18 games with a left shoulder injury. ... Brother Charlie Lindgren missed the game with an illness, forcing the Capitals to dress 2018 draft pick Mitchell Gibson as Kuemper's backup after signing the Harvard goaltender to an amateur tryout agreement. ... Capitals forward Sonny Milano returned after missing the previous three games with an upper-body injury.
Rangers: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.
Capitals: Visit Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
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