You could say, Gerard Gallant was doing a bit of the lineup shuffle.
The New York Rangers shook things up a bit for Game 3 as Gallant separated Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko — better known as the “Kid Line” — to try and jumpstart the stagnant offense during the first two periods. The Blue Shirt bench boss eventually returned things back to normal in the final minutes of the middle frame of the game.
While Gallant didn’t say there would be any lineup changes before the game, he said there “might be some mixed lines” on the ice hinting at the impending shakeup. And Gallant had already experimented with the idea in Game 2 in Carolina a few days earlier when he swapped Lafreniere and Copp and moved Kakko around.
The Rangers hadn’t scored a goal in more than 116 minutes of hockey entering Sunday’s showdown at Madison Square Garden since Chytil scored New York’s only one at the 7:07 mark of the first period in Game 1. While the trio has been the team’s best group in the second round and the playoffs overall, it appeared that the Rangers bench boss saw more value in putting them in other areas of the lineup.
Chytil found himself on the top line alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad for a portion of the game, while Lafreniere was moved to the right side of Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome. Kakko stayed on the third line, but had Frank Vatrano and Andrew Copp with him.
“It’s just exactly what we’re talking about. You think of it all the time,” Gallant said prior to Game 3 when asked about the pros and cons of splitting up Chytil, Lafreniere and Kakko. “I love the way the kids are playing. And in saying that, they’re minus-4 in the playoffs, but they’ve played good hockey. plus/minus to me doesn’t mean a whole lot, it really doesn’t, but I like the way they played.
“They competed, but might want to add a little bit of that different looks today and see what that changes.”
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New York’s offense did finally appear in Game 3, snapping what ended up being a 127:59 shutout streak for Antti Raanta with a power-play goal in the first period. Kreider scored in the second period to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead and Chytil was on the ice when the goal occurred.