Rempe returns to Rangers lineup for Game 2 of East Final against Panthers

Rempe returns to Rangers lineup for Game 2 of East Final against Panthers
Rempe returns to Rangers lineup for Game 2 of East Final against Panthers

NEW YORK — Matt Rempe was back in the lineup for the New York Rangers for their 2-1 overtime victory against the Florida Panthers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

The rookie forward replaced Kaapo Kakko, who was a healthy scratch for the first time since June 11, 2022, in Game 6 of the conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Rempe had been scratched for two straight games and four of the previous five. He had no shots on goal but had a game-high nine hits and won his only face-off in 10:06 of ice time Friday, his second-most ice time in 25 games this season, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs (11: 08 against the St. Louis Blues on March 9).

“That was so much fun,” Rempe said after the Rangers tied the best-of-7 series. “Played some more minutes and stuff and … so much fun. Had the time of my life out there. So happy we got the win. That was the best.”

Rempe played 17 shifts, including five in the third period and one in overtime.

“I remember ‘Lavy’ (coach Peter Laviolette) calling my name with a few minutes left (in the third) and I was like, ‘Oh my God. Jiminy Crickets, let’s go,'” Rempe said. “So I was thrown out there and trying to buzz around and do my job. … It was just a blast, so much fun.”

Rempe (6-foot-7, 241 pounds) has one point, a goal in Game 1 of the first round against the Washington Capitals, in eight games in these playoffs. He hadn’t played since Game 5 of the second round against the Carolina Hurricanes, a 4-1 loss.

Rempe played in each of New York’s first six playoff games, helping the Rangers go 6-0. They are 21-3-1 with him in the lineup this season: 14-2-1 in the regular season and 7-1 in the playoffs.

“I thought he had really good pace right from the start of the game,” Laviolette said. “He was effective on the forecheck, effective putting it behind them. Putting it in the other team’s zone. Staying down there. I thought he came out and had a real impact, especially early on in the first period.”

Rempe made his NHL debut on Feb. 18 in the 2024 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series against the New Jersey Devils at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

“I’m chomping, I’m ready to go, ready to go,” Rempe said at the morning skate Friday. “I’m already buzzing. I’m just going to go have fun, take it shift by shift and have fun with it. Create some chaos, skate hard, have some fun. I’m 21. I don’t have pressure . I just want to do the most. If I know I work my hardest I can look at myself and say, ‘I’m proud of myself, I worked my hardest.’ That’s all I can do.”

Kakko has two points (one goal, one assist) in games in these playoffs. He was limited to 10:27 of ice time in Game 1 after playing 10:01 in New York’s series-clinching comeback win against the Hurricanes in Game 6 of the second round. He’s averaging 11:34 of ice time in these playoffs.

NHL.com senior director of editorial Shawn P. Roarke and staff writer David Satriano contributed to this report

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