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Rangers Win Game 1 Thanks to a Goal from Matt Rempe in his Postseason Debut

Matt Rempe, a rookie forward for the New York Rangers, stated that his initial reaction upon scoring the first goal of their playoff series against the Washington Capitals on Sunday was “shock”.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ It didn’t really kick in, and then you hear the crowd. It was a dream come true. It was unreal,” After the Rangers defeated the Astros 4-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the first-round playoff series, he declared. 

The Rangers’ offense took off after Rempe’s goal at 4:17 in the second period, as they scored three goals in a two-and-a-half-minute stretch. But the entire contest just cemented the 6-foot-7 rookie’s image as a cult hero, as his furious battles and massive hits won over Rangers supporters, who enthusiastically screamed his name during Game 1.

“I love them. They were chanting all night and I love them so much,” Rempe exclaimed. “I can’t thank them enough.”

Janice, his mother, who was witnessing her son perform at Madison Square Garden for the first time, was among those admirers.

“It was really special for her to be there,” he stated. “I love her so much. I’m her biggest fan. We went out for dinner last night and walked around. She had never really been to New York, so we were just walking around. I bet she was pretty emotional today, so it was really cool.”

Just 50 seconds into Game 1, Rempe made his first postseason shift, igniting a “REM-PE” chant among the packed Madison Square Garden audience. Rempe went in the penalty box a little more than a minute later after being penalized for charging against Beck Malenstyn of the Capitals. The Capitals went 0-for-4 when they had the man advantage, failing to score as they would throughout Game 1.

During the first period, Rempe only spent 26 seconds more on the ice than in the penalty box—a ratio that Rangers fans who witnessed his rookie season are likely familiar with.

However, Rempe’s offensive play in the second period—rather than his physicality—changed the course of the game.

At 4:17, Rempe scored his first goal of the playoffs and gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead. He carried the ball into the attacking zone, circled behind the net, and then tucked a feed from teammate Jimmy Vesey into the Capitals’ net.

“I think any game he’s in the lineup, he’s had an effect on the game. He shows up every night for the team and it’s great to see him get that goal,”  Vesey remarked. “It was a big goal in the game obviously, but the look on his face was pretty cool, too.”

After that goal, the Rangers took the lead, leading 3-0 for the next 2:06 of the second period thanks to goals from Artemi Panarin and Vesey on a play that featured yet another Rempe moment.

Rempe and Malenstyn collided after Barclay Goodrow won the faceoff, sending Malenstyn to the ice in the slot. That made it easier for Vesey to beat goalie Charlie Lindgren with a deflected long-range attempt. John Carlson of the Capitals objected to the officials regarding the play. After the faceoff, Malenstyn seemed to skate into Rempe in the replays.

“You’re anticipating a [faceoff] loss, so you’re trying to jump through. And then when [Goodrow] wins it back, I want to get a pick. I don’t really know what happened. Next thing you know, Jimmy scored. So I was just happy Jim scored,” Rempe remarked.

After 8:33 of ice time, Rempe finished the game with a goal, a plus-2 rating, two penalty minutes, and two shots on goal. He would smile and skate away from the Capitals when they attempted to physically interact with him.

From making his NHL debut in the Rangers’ victory against the Islanders in the MetLife Stadium Series on February 18 to being selected for the starting lineup in Game 1 of the playoffs, Rempe has had a learning experience. Rempe only had one fight in his final seven regular-season games after having five in his first six NHL games and serving a four-game suspension in March for elbowing New Jersey defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler.

Rempe expressed his pride at having contributed to the Rangers’ postseason success after Game 1.

“I know my game. I know I can skate well and be physical. I think I can be a real pain to play against down low, protecting pucks and going to the net,” he remarked. “I think I’m built for the playoffs. I think that that’s where you want to play and I was happy how tonight went.”

In his 22 years as an NHL bench coach, Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette stated he could not think of another first-year player who was as good as Rempe.

“I can’t think of a player that’s come in and had that kind of impact on a team, on a fan base and on the city,” he stated. “If you watch him, he just smiles. He’s just happy. Loves being here, loves to play the game. He’s been great.”

Madison Square Garden will host Game 2 on Tuesday evening.

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