Kid Line helps New York Rangers rout Tampa Bay Lightning, Andrei Vasilevskiy

NEW YORK — Filip Chytil didn’t sound crazy about the “Kid Line” nickname, but he didn’t offer any strong objections, either.

“I don’t mind it,” the 22-year-old center said before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final. “It is what it is.”.

He’s more concerned with the way his line with fellow first-round draft picks Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko are performing. And after two encouraging rounds, they continued their upward trajectory Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The kids played a pivotal role in the Rangers’ series-opening 6-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, with Chytil leading the charge.

“I’m very happy with how we go with every game,” he said. “It’s the first playoffs for all three of us, so we’re just playing every game hard, playing for the team. We scored some important goals and we are happy. It’s a great experience for all three of us.”.

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The pair of goals came in a span of 5:34 in the second period, with the first turning out to be the game-winner.

Shortly after Lightning forward Ondrej Palat tied the score at 2-2, the Kid Line produced a relentless shift that featured a full minute of sustained offensive-zone time. It ended with Kakko dancing behind the net and weaving a pass through two defenders. Chytil was waiting in the slot and buried a one-timer to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead with 9:51 remaining in the period.

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An even longer possession resulted in the second goal, with fellow 22-year-old K’Andre Miller sending a cross-ice pass right into Chytil’s wheelhouse for another one-timer, this one from the right circle.

The young guys stole the headlines, but the Rangers put together an impressive team effort against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

After a straightforward, risk-adverse approach against the Carolina Hurricanes in round two – at least for the first five games – the Rangers came out wheeling and dealing against Tampa, with 11 different players registering at least one point.

MSG just erupted just 1:11 into Game 1, as Mika Zibanejad beat Nikita Kucherov to a loose puck, drew the defense and found Chris Kreider wide open in the slot. The Rangers’ leading goal-scorer in these playoffs finished with a perfectly placed shot in between the post and Andrei Vasilevskiy’s right arm to quickly give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.

They continued to push the pace in the opening five minutes, with the Lightning looking like a team that was searching for its sea legs after an eight-day layoff.

They seemed to find them temporarily, pinning the Rangers in their own zone for stretches in the first period. They ended of those possessions with a screaming one-timer from Steven Stamkos, who took a pass from Jan Rutta and roofed it with a powerful shot that goalie Igor Shesterkin had no chance at.

The two teams continued to trade goals in the first half of the second period, with Frank Vatrano scoring for the Rangers before Palat tied it for the Lightning. But the Kid Line seized momentum from there and the Blueshirts never relinquished it.

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Artemi Panarin opened the third period with his first even-strength goal since May 7 to make it 5-2, which was followed by a power-play goal from Zibanejad that put an exclamation point on the affair.

‘Igor’s better!’

The Rangers have now scored 17 goals in their last three games after mustering nine in their previous five. The respect and tentativeness they showed in the face of the Hurricanes’ aggressive forecheck has given way to a speed-and-skill game that befits their top players.

They took advantage of a Tampa team that may have been dealing with rust, particularly Vasilevskiy.

By the third period, fans at the Garden were chanting, “Igor’s better! Igor’s better!”.

Shesterkin looked like his usual self, which is to say hard to beat. He robbed Kucherov on a few occasions and finished with 37 saves.

No update on Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper

Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said he didn’t know if Darcy Kuemper would be available for Thursday’s Game 2.

The goalie left during Colorado’s 8-6 victory against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1. Bednar said he wasn’t going to provide details when asked if it was related to the first-round incident in which Kuemper caught a stick near his eye.

“He relayed that he was having some issues, so I told (backup goalie Pavel Francouz) to get ready,” Bednar said. “I think it was during our power play so no immediate rush to get him out of there. As soon as we got the opportunity, we got him out.”.

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Around the rinks

Lightning forward Brayden Point, who was injured in Game 7 of the first round, skated Wednesday, but coach Jon Cooper tamped down expectations that he’d be back anytime soon. … Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.

Thursday’s game

Edmonton at Colorad, 8, TNT. Avalanche lead 1-0.

Contributing: Associated Press.

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