Kaapo Kakko joins rest of Kid Line’s scoring surge to give Rangers vital edge
Maybe Kaapo Kakko felt left out.
If he did, he did something about it.
It was Kakko’s one-timer tip-in with 2:28 remaining in the second period that gave the Rangers their first lead over the Lightning on Friday night en route to a 3-2 win in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final at the Garden.
The goal, and its setup, was a work of art.
Adam Fox, the Rangers defenseman who seems to do everything right with the puck on his stick, slid a perfect pass through a narrow window between Tampa Bay defensemen Victor Hedman and Jan Rutta to Kakko, who was waiting at the doorstep of the crease to the left of Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
It happened so fast, the Tampa Bay netminder never had a chance, never saw the puck until it was behind him.
“Nice pass, Foxy,’’ the ESPN boom mic picked up Kakko saying to Fox when they got to the bench.
“ ‘Laf’ [Lafreniere] hit the post there and it was kind a little broken play,” Fox said, “and Fil [Chytil] made a great pass to me and I just tried to get that defensemen [Hedman and Rutta] to move out of the lane a little bit and a great tip by Kaapo there.”
It had to be a nice feeling for Kakko, who probably felt a little left out with his linemates making more headlines of late with big plays.
Access the Rangers beat like never before
Join Post Sports+ for exciting member-only features, including real-time texting withMollie Walker about the inside buzz on the Rangers.
Kakko, one-third of the Rangers’ energetic, difference-making, headline-stealing, goal-scoring Kid Line, hadn’t scored a goal since Game 3 of the first-round series against Pittsburgh.
“Always feels good to score a goal,’’ Kakko said afterward. “I just stayed in front of the net and we got some chances before that and Foxy got the puck and made a nice pass. Easy job for me. Just put it in the net.’’
The 21-year-old winger entered Friday with just four points in 15 postseason games — that one goal and three assists. His linemates, meanwhile, have been humming.
Filip Chytil scored two goals in the second period Wednesday night in the 6-2 Game 1 win over the Lightning and has seven goals and two assists in 16 playoff games. Alexis Lafreniere has two goals and seven assists.
Asked if he thought Kakko felt left out with his linemates playing so well, Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said: “It was great to see him score. He’s a big kid and he gets in the front of that blue paint and he scored a huge goal for us. Good for Kaapo.’’
Good for the Rangers, who will take a commanding 2-0 series lead to Tampa, Fla., for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon. Teams that have taken a 2-0 lead in the East finals have gone on to win 91 of 98 times, good for a 93 percent clip.