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Like so many kids growing up in hockey-loving Montreal, Alexis Lafreniere always thought about what it would be like to play in a playoff series Game 7.
The 20-year-old winger will get that chance Sunday night when the Rangers face the Penguins at the Garden to decide which team will advance to the second round.
Lafreniere, the No. 1-overall pick in the 2020 draft, does so with his line — alongside fellow emerging forwards Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko — making an impressive contribution to the Rangers’ postseason success.
“Big games obviously, you grow up and you watch the playoffs and Game 7s are usually really fun to watch. To actually be able to play in one, is a privilege and I’ll try and enjoy every moment,” Lafreniere said after an optional practice Saturday in Tarrytown. “Obviously I’ve played a couple of games, a couple of playoff games, so just get ready for another game.
“Just watching the Habs growing up in Montreal … it was always a lot of fun to watch that. Like I said, just to play in one, it’s hard to believe a little bit. It’s pretty special.”
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Lafreniere closed his second NHL campaign with a flourish, scoring four goals over his final seven games, including his first career two-goal game April 16 against Detroit. After finishing with 19 goals in 79 appearances, exceeding his rookie total by seven, he also had two goals and two assists over the first six games against the Penguins, while providing important energy with his “Kid Line” teammates.
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“I think it’s going well. I think we’re getting better playing with each other and I’m starting to find Kappo and find Fil a little easier,” Lafreniere said. “It’s been good for us just to be able to play like that. I think we didn’t have that much time together this year, but I think it’s going well right now. So we have to keep going.”
Asked if he’s approaching Game 7 as “just another hockey game,” Lafreniere said: “It is, but at the same time, it’s a big game. We need to look at it that we have to prepare the same, that it’s the same game, 60 minutes. But it’s probably our biggest game of the year, so we’ll be ready. I know the building’s gonna be really loud. So just be ready and enjoy it.”