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Peter Laviolette’s playoff experience was already crucial for Rangers

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Mark Cannizzaro

Mark Cannizzaro


Peter Laviolette has dealt with some of these things before.

One hundred and fifty-five of them, to be exact, after the Rangers’ 4-1 playoff victory over the Capitals at the Garden on Sunday to take a 1-0 series lead.

So there was no panic from the Rangers’ coach after an initial period in which the Capitals played about as close to the blueprint on how they needed to play to have a chance in this series.

Peter Laviolette looks on during the Rangers’ Game 1 victory over the Capitals on April 21, 2024. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The Capitals did what they do: muddy the game and prevented the Rangers’ faster, more skilled offensive weapons from roaming and feasting on scoring opportunities.

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Washington had twice as many blocked shots in the first period (eight) as shots on Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin (four), and the high-voltage Rangers managed just seven shots on Capitals netminder Charlie Lindgren.

The result was a rather unremarkable, scoreless 20-minute opening stretch of what the Rangers hope will be a very long postseason run as they chase their first Stanley Cup in 30 years with a team that looks more than built to go at the end of the competition to hoist the chalice. line.

The byproduct of that goalless first period was the sold-out Garden – 18,006 strong and riding high on the tension of post-season expectations at the start of the match – feeling the buzz waning.

At that moment, Laviolette, who before Sunday afternoon had coached 154 playoff games and led three teams to the Stanley Cup Finals, winning one with the Hurricanes and losing with the Flyers and Predators, pressed a few buttons to start the game. help turn.

Laviolette leaned on the energy that rookie Matt Rempe and his fourth-line teammates Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow brought to the building, and he sent that line out earlier than he might have in the second period.

Matt Rempe celebrates after scoring in the Rangers’ Game 1 win over the Capitals on April 21, 2024. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

And it worked to perfection.

The wide-eyed 21-year-old Rempe’s first playoff goal in his first career playoff game gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead and reignited the excitement in the building. Two minutes and six seconds later it was 3-0 to Rangers.

Artemi Panarin, who had a regular-season all-timer with 49 goals and 120 points, scored the middle goal of those three, with Laviolette keeping him on the ice for double duty.

This, Laviolette later recalled, is something he did this season to get his leading scorer more ice time. But this was a big button pushed at the right time.

“There were a lot of things we did well defensively in the first period,” Laviolette said. “Offensively, they’ve kept things close to the vest, so we talked about changing some things after the first period to try to get a little bit better.

“It was quite tight in the first period. They (the Capitals) have been playing some pretty tight hockey. We knew that when we walked in. That (Rempe’s goal) was a big goal. It brought energy into the building. That was a turning point in the game.”

Jimmy Vesey celebrates during the Rangers’ Game 1 victory over the Capitals on April 21, 2024. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

It was a turning point that the veteran coach helped create, even if he is reluctant to take any credit for it.

The Rangers have a better, deeper and more skilled team than Washington. They also have a team with much more playoff experience than the Capitals. This also applies to the men behind the bench.

Capitals coach Spencer Carbery, who succeeded Laviolette in Washington after Laviolette went to the Rangers, coached in his first playoff game on Sunday.

It’s not like Carbery did anything to lose the match. He’s playing a kind of stacked deck against the winners of the Presidents’ Trophy.

But on this day, at least Laviolette made a small difference.

“The hockey that they’ve played and that we’ve scouted is that they’re a little bit more low-event,” Laviolette said of the Caps. “So not as high with the offense and it’s also harder to generate (offense against them). They are closer to the vest. The game probably went the way we thought it would.”

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