After a season spent in the United States, Alexis Lafreniére made his return to Canada a good one.
Playing for the first time in his hometown of Montreal, the Quebec kid scored the game-winning goal in a 3-1 Rangers victory. It marked his first goal of the season and gave the Rangers their first win, to boot.
With the Rangers on a breakout in the third period, Lafreniére sprinted down the left wing and buried the Mika Zibanejad helper.
Lafreniére, who took a stick to the chin for his efforts, made his family happy, the crowd not as much as it gave the visitors a 2-1 lead just 26 seconds after Jonathan Drouin tied things up.
Last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, who was a star for the gold-medal winning Canadians at the 2020 World Junior Championship, grew up in the Montreal suburb of Saint-Eustache. Because the COVID-19 pandemic halted cross-border travel, he did not play at home nor were his parents be able to travel to New York to see him play.
An amped-up Lafreniére was flying all night. He had a game-high five shots and was credited with three hits in 16 minutes and 16 seconds of ice time. He is the first Quebec-born Ranger to score against Montreal since Derick Brassard on March 26, 2016.
Last season, the 20-year-old notched just 12 goals and nine assists in 56 games. He struggled at times as he moved up and down the lineup. In 2021, under new bench boss Gerard Gallant, he has been put in a prime spot playing on the top line with Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, who scored the opening goal.
The win also marked the first of Gallant’s Rangers tenure.