Artemi Panarin stars as Rangers beat Capitals, 4-1, in Game 1 of first round of 2024 NHL playoffs

Cult hero Matt Rempe scored his first-career playoff goal and Artemi Panarin got the fast playoff start that Rangers fans hoped for as the Blueshirts won Game 1 of their first-round series with the Washington Capitals, 4-1, in front of a sellout crowd of 18,006 at Madison Square Garden.

Rempe, Panarin and Jimmy Vesey scored in a flurry of goals in the second period, giving the Rangers a lead that they made insurmountable, and Chris Kreider added a goal on a breakaway in the third period off a brilliant long pass from Mika Zibanejad.

Igor Shesterkin made 20 saves for the Blueshirts, who will host Game 2 on Tuesday.

Here are the takeaways...

- The Rangers scored three goals in a span of 2:06 in the second period, getting two of them from their fourth line. It was the third-fastest spurt of three goals in Rangers playoff history. The only ones faster: 0:38 in Game 3 of the 1986 Division Semifinals and 1:02 in Game 6 of the 1996 Conference Quarterfinals, according to the NHL.

- Rempe, of all people, scored the first one, looping around the net and appearing on the right of Washington goalie Charlie Lindgren, just as Vesey slipped Rempe the puck from the other side. He scored easily, prompting chants of “Rem-pe, Rem-pe,” which the hulking forward usually gets for other, more pugilistic, reasons. Just 23 seconds later, at the 4:50 mark of the period, Panarin scored from the right circle on a wrist shot -- a play that came seconds after Alexis Lafreniere crashed into Vincent Iorio and the Caps wanted a penalty. Panarin did not score a goal last season in the seven-game, first-round loss to the Devils, but had a big first game following his superb regular season in which he tallied 49 goals. Iorio was in pain and skated off the ice after the play.

- With 13:37 left in the second, Barclay Goodrow won a faceoff in the Caps’ zone and Vesey wristed a shot that was deflected and went past Charlie Lindgren for a 3-0 Ranger lead. The goal prompted chants of “Char-lie, Char-lie,” aimed at the Washington goalie, the brother of Ryan Lindgren, the Rangers defenseman. But the Capitals scored less than a minute later when Martin Fehervary scored on a deflected shot, trimming the Blueshirts’ lead to 3-1.

- There was a scrum at center ice at the end of the second period, plus other “conversations” around the ice, a result of some physical play. Officials restored order and there were no incidents, but it seems like rugged play will be a part of this series, regardless of how long it lasts. In the third period, there was another scrum, this time around the Ranger net. The goal was knocked off its moorings.

- Kreider’s goal was the 41st of his playoff career, extending his franchise record for postseason goals.

- The highlight of the first period -- mostly a physical, feeling-out session in which both teams killed two penalties -- came when the Rangers had a man advantage after a Tom Wilson interference penalty. Panarin had the puck inside the blue line and cranked a shot that was blocked by Beck Malenstyn. The puck bounded back to Panarin who stickhandled one way and then another and Malenstyn tumbled to the ice trying to stay in front of him. The play looked like a point guard unleashing an ankle-breaking move on a defender in basketball.

- Peter Laviolette became the first head coach in NHL history to guide six different teams into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Laviolette also did it with the Rangers' opponent, the Capitals, who he coached for each of the previous three seasons, as well as the Islanders, the Hurricanes, the Flyers and the Predators. Laviolette was coaching in his 155th playoff game, most among active coaches.

GAME MVP: The Rangers penalty-kill unit

The Blueshirts wiped out all four of Washington’s power-play chances, including one just over two minutes into the game, which could’ve set poor momentum for the playoff opener.


What's next

The Rangers look to go up 2-0 at MSG in Game 2 on Tuesday at 7 p.m.