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The No.1 overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft, Alexis Lafreniere came to the Rangers with plenty of pressure to become an emerging superstar in the Big Apple.
After being shut out on the stat sheet for the first six games of his pro career, Lafreniere lit the lamp for the first time on Thursday night, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, as his overtime winner gave New York a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres and two points in the standings.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Lafreniere said after the game. “You know, overtime, game-winning goal. It was really special and I’ll never forget this moment for sure.”
Recently, the Rangers bumped Lafreniere up to the top line and put him back at his more natural left wing position, trying to ignite the 19-year-old’s offensive game. That spark finally came with just over two minutes remaining in overtime, as a loose puck at center ice quickly turned into a two-on-one, and Colin Blackwell was able to find Lafreniere for the game-winner.
“I had a lot of good chances and I was [thinking] keep going, and it was going to go in for sure. I kept going, kept grinding, and a nice pass by [Blackwell] and had kind of an open net, so it was a really good play by [Blackwell].
“I was ready to go. I thought I was playing a good game, so I was ready and I took my chance and it went in, so it was pretty fun.”
After the game, head coach David Quinn had plenty of praise for the top pick, saying that even though he’s been a bit “snake-bitten” to start his career, he’s still been a joy to coach.
“Well, obviously everybody talks about his world-class talent, but this guy’s a ballsy kid. He really is,” Quinn said. “I don't care if he's the first pick or the 271st pick, he's a ballsy kid. He’s a kid that you want to be around. He’s had a lot of fun with the fact that he’s been snake-bitten. He probably should have had four goals tonight, but for him to get his first goal in that situation, under those circumstances, I couldn’t be happier for him, because his game is coming.
“He’s playing better and better each night, and it’s just great to see, it really is.”