Kakko Explodes! The Finnish Force wills Rangers to victory (video)
After a strong win on Saturday night versus the Dallas Stars Prospects, the Rangers took in a matinee game against the Minnesota Wild. Kaapo Kakko, the second overall pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft made his tournament debut and definitely made the most of it, coming alive and scoring 4 points including the overtime winner to beat the Wild 4-3.
Yegor Rykov, Kade Landry and Keith Getson were scratches for today’s game. Kaapo Kakko, Cody Milan and Tarmo Reunanen dressed for the Rangers this afternoon.
Minnesota opened the scoring with Ivan Lodina scoring an unassisted goal in the first after a Ranger turned it over on the blueline, which resulted in a breakaway, then the Wild goal. A defensive first period and a relatively quiet frame for both teams.
At the start of the second, the first line of Kakko, Kravtsov and Henriksson cycled the puck very well in the Minnesota zone, which ultimately led to Kakko getting hooked in the corner, resulting in a Rangers power play. Although they did not score, the cycle and offensive zone pressure was significant with Kravtsov and Kaako leading the charge. Kakko was fed a pass from the other side of the zone but could not get a hold of it and lost it. The puck control and passing ability both Kakko and Kravtsov displayed in the corner and around the zone was truly impressive.
Even though the Rangers first line was clicking, Minnesota held them off and scored a goal of their own to make it 2-0 on a shot from Darian Pilon. Not too long after, Wild Forward Drake Pilon cross checked Lewis Zerter-Gossage in the head and was injured towards the end which led to a five minute power play and a match penalty.
Right off the bat, at the start of the third period, Vitali Kravtsov and Kaapo Kakko went crazy. Kravtsov scored with just 1:06 into period from assists from Kakko and Henriksson, then right after on the same man advantage, Kakko made a beautiful pass from just outside the right faceoff circle in the offensive zone to find Kravtsov for another power play tally. All three forwards, Kravtsov, Kakko and Henriksson looked tremendous on the man advantage to tie the game up at 2. The Wild would come back and score to take a 3-2 lead from Matvey Guskov.
Entering into the closing minute, led by Kaapo Kakko, the Rangers tied the game on a bank shot from Patrick Newell. Kakko held the puck behind the net and fed Newell who banked it in and tied the game at 3.
Just when you thought that was it, Kaapo Kakko thought otherwise. Going into a 3v3 OT, Kakko controlled the puck incredibly well when he was out there and took control of the game soon after. A strong cycle in the Minnesota zone, Kakko circled around the net twice, threw a shot, picked up his own rebound and scored on the wraparound to win it for the Baby Rangers. An incredible effort to end a solid performance.
There were a lot of positives in this game. Kaapo Kakko was as advertised, playing strong hockey in the corners, creating a ton of offensive chances and using his skill to keep Minnesota on their heels by dropping 4 points and being involved in every strong Rangers chance. Vitali Kravtsov and Karl Henriksson thrived off of that and played well together with Kakko by playing well in their own rights. The cycle and offensive zone pressure those three created was incredibly satisfying to look as at the game progressed. The flashes of brilliance all three of these forwards really puts an emphasis on how well the Rangers organization has scouted talent.
Although he had a plus/minus rating of -1, Adam Fox continued to skate well and play solid defense in his own zone. Igor Shesterkin had a strong bounce back game in net, making 20 saves on 23 shots. Patrick Newell alsom played well, skating hard and contributing to the offense by netting the game tying goal in the 3rd.
This OT win puts the Rangers into the Championship Round tomorrow to end the tournament.