Matt Rempe, New York Rangers forward
(Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)

The New York Rangers opened the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a convincing 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Sunday, thanks in large part to the energizing performance of rookie forward Matt Rempe.

The towering 6-foot-7 Rempe, who has quickly become a fan favorite at Madison Square Garden, scored a crucial second-period goal and finished with a plus-two rating and three hits in 8:33 of ice time on the fourth line.

“It was a dream come true,” Rempe said after the game, beaming with excitement. “A little bit of shock, and then you hear the crowd. It was unreal.”

Rempe’s goal came at 4:17 of the second period, giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead. He led the rush into the offensive zone before dishing to linemate Barclay Goodrow behind the net. Jimmy Vesey then found Rempe at the side of the crease for the tap-in tally that ignited the Garden crowd.

“Those guys have taken me under their wing a lot,” Rempe said of linemates Vesey and Goodrow. “As a young guy, I love them a lot. I was really happy we all had success.”

The 21-year-old Rempe has made a meteoric rise since being recalled from the AHL in February. His physical, energetic style of play has drawn comparisons to classic power forwards and endeared him to the Blueshirts faithful, who serenade him with chants of “Rempe! Rempe!” each game.

“I can’t think of a player that’s come in and had that impact on a team, on a fanbase, on a city,” Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette said. “If you watch him and look at him, he just smiles, he’s just happy, loves being here, loves to play the game. He’s been great.”

Rempe nearly scored again in the third period but was denied by Capitals goalie Charlie Lindgren. He also showed restraint by skating away from an attempt by Washington’s Dylan McIlrath to draw him into some rough stuff with the Rangers leading late.

“I think I’m built for the playoffs,” Rempe confidently stated after the game. The Calgary native said it was extra special to score with his mom Janice in attendance at the Garden for the first time.

After being named the game’s third star, Rempe was asked if his mother’s presence gave him some extra juice. With his trademark grin, the affable rookie quipped: “I’ve always got juice.”

The Rangers will look to take a 2-0 series lead when they host the Capitals for Game 2 on Tuesday night. With the physical, passionate and productive Rempe providing a spark, New York has to feel good about their chances of making a deep postseason run.

As Coach Laviolette put it: “He loves what he does and loves to hit and be physical, and it’s nice to get rewarded by going to the net tonight and getting his first [playoff] goal. Pretty good night for him. It was awesome.”