Matt Rempe sparks Rangers’ big second period in dominant Game 1 win over Capitals

Madison Square Garden had a palpable stiffness to it before Rangers cult hero Matt Rempe did what he does best.

The 6-foot-8 ½ forward, whose appearance in the playoff lineup had been questioned by many, restored the World’s Most Famous Arena to its proper postseason decibel level when he scored the Rangers’ first goal on the way to their 4-1 win over the Capitals in Game 1 of their first-round series Sunday.

5 Rangers center Matt Rempe #73 is all smiles after he scores a goal during the second period on Sunday. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

5 Rangers center Matt Rempe (73) celebrates with defenseman K’Andre Miller (79) after scoring a goal in the second period against the Washington Capitals in Game 1 on Sunday. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

“I think I’m built for the playoffs,” said Rempe, whose playoff debut was even more special because his mom, Janice, was watching from inside the Garden for the first time.

It was a goal that said: I belong here.

It served as a catalyst for what became a crucial three-goal second period.

It got the Blueshirts going.

This was far from an aberration in Rempe’s short-yet-eventful NHL career, as he has become a household name in the hockey world by way of his towering stature, bruising fists and unapologetic personality.

There’s no question the 21-year-old rookie plays a unique and niche role in the limited minutes he receives under Peter Laviolette, but the impact Rempe has been able to have despite such circumstances is why the Rangers’ head coach had him suit up on Sunday.

“That was a big goal that did put energy in the building,” Laviolette said. “Maybe because it was him, too, it put a little extra juice in the building.”

Just ask the Garden crowd, which was already chanting Rempe’s name as he hauled over the boards for the first time in the postseason. He was, of course, checked early by the referees when they made a questionable charging call 34 seconds into his first shift of the game.

5 Rangers left wing Chris Kreider reacts after he scores a goal during the third period on Sunday. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Even the officials seemed more concerned with what Rempe was doing than the actual game — something the Canadian forward presumably earned by way of his five fights, three ejections and four-game suspension in the regular season.

After a sleepy and scoreless first period, the Rangers fourth line worked the end boards before Jimmy Vesey sent a slick feed to Rempe at the other side of the Capitals’ net for the 1-0 lead. As a result, Rempe became the first Ranger to score in his playoff debut since Matt Gilroy did it in 2011, also against Washington.

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“It’s been fun playing with him, he shows up every night for the team,” Vesey said of Rempe. “It’s great to see him get that goal and it was a good goal, but the look on his face was pretty cool, too.”

The fans clad in blue weren’t the only ones rejuvenated by Rempe’s breakthrough.

So were the Rangers, who got a goal from Artemi Panarin 33 seconds later, when the second line flexed on its opponents as it has all season long. After Alexis Lafreniere absolutely bodied Capitals defenseman Vincent Iorio — who left the game and didn’t return — into the boards, Vincent Trocheck dished to a wide-open Panarin in the right circle to double the Rangers’ lead.

5 Chris Kreider #20 celebrates with his teammates after he scores a goal pass Washington Capitals goaltender Charlie Lindgren on Sunday. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The fourth line then produced its second of the period and the Rangers’ third goal in the span of 2:06, when Vesey whipped the puck in off a Barclay Goodrow faceoff win.

Chris Kreider later scored his 41st career playoff goal off a backhanded shot on a breakaway to further establish his postseason franchise record for goals scored and seal the victory, while goalie Igor Shesterkin finished with 20 saves.

5 Artemi Panarin celebrates his goal against the Capitals in Game 1 of their NHL playoff series on Sunday. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

This win, however, started with Rempe.

He said he always wants to play his hardest for the MSG crowd he has endeared himself to, but didn’t he have some extra juice with his mom in the building, too?

“I always got juice,” Rempe said as the reporters in front of him roared with laughter. “No, obviously, I love her so much. Biggest fan. Went out for dinner [Saturday] night and walked around, she’s never really been to New York, so we were just walking around and it was definitely cool. It was a pretty emotional day.”

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