Alexis Lafreniere’s first hat trick helps him join elite Rangers company

TEMPE, Ariz. — The number of hats that covered the Mullett Arena ice after Alexis Lafreniere buried his third goal of the night into an empty net, for the first hat trick of his career, revealed just how many blue-blooded fans were in attendance.

Lafreniere had them on their feet on several occasions thanks to his five-point effort in the Blueshirts’ 8-5 win over the Coyotes on Saturday, which gave the team’s 2020 first-overall pick his first 50-plus point campaign of his four-year NHL career.

Alexis Lafreniere NHLI via Getty Images

“Always working hard and trying to get better every year,” said Lafreniere, who is the first Ranger aged 22 or under since Brian Leetch to record five-plus points in a game. “Just playing my game and playing with confidence. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

After jumping out on a two-on-one rush with Vincent Trocheck, keeping it for himself and burying it to open the scoring in the first period, Lafreniere answered a Coyotes goal within 17 seconds to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead at the 6:45 mark of the middle frame.

Lafreniere earned assists on Ryan Lindgren’s goal and Zac Jones’ goal before his empty-netter sealed the win for the Rangers.

“He’s a special player,” Jonathan Quick said. “He’s a game-breaker. He makes plays. He works so well with [Artemi Panarin] and [Trocheck]. It’s fun to watch. Fun to watch him play.”

The Rangers have their captain back.

Jacob Trouba returned to the lineup against the Coyotes, marking the 30-year-old defenseman’s first game back since missing 11 consecutive contests with a lower-body injury he sustained on March 4.

As a result, Chad Ruhwedel was a healthy scratch for the seventh time since the Penguins traded him to New York before the trade deadline on March 8.

Jacob Trouba returned to the Rangers lineup on Saturday night.
Jacob Trouba returned to the Rangers lineup on Saturday night. AP

Zac Jones remained in the lineup and scored his second goal of the season to give the Rangers a 5-3 lead in the third, skating alongside Braden Schneider. Trouba returned to his usual post next to K’Andre Miller. The Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox pairing remained intact.

Trouba finished minus-two, but head coach Peter Laviolette chalked it up to No. 8 getting back into game action.

“It’s good to get him back out there,” Laviolette said. “I thought he looked like Trouba. He was trying to battle, he was trying to compete inside of things. Guys go out for a month, I think it takes a minute to get back up to where you were. I have no doubt that he’ll continue to get better.”

Forward Matt Rempe was a healthy scratch for the second straight game.

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