Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko hit a long goalless kick

LAS VEGAS — Kaapo Kakko skated into the middle of the faceoff circle, keeping his eyes on the puck on K’Andre Miller’s stick at the top of the zone.

Miller let go of a quick wrister and Kakko was in perfect position to get the puck down as he weaved through traffic and past Golden Knights goaltender Logan Thompson. The first-half goal was the Finnish winger’s first since Nov. 22 and gave his team the lead before Thursday night’s 5-1 win over Vegas at T-Mobile Arena.

“I think I’ve always said after I score, of course it feels good,” Cacco said after the win, which improved the Rangers to 13-10-5. “Especially after such a short break. It feels good. The whole team played very well.”

In the second period of Rangers’ 6-4 win over the Blues earlier this week, Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere were up front with Mika Zibanejad. The Rangers lined up like that again Wednesday night in Vegas, so there should be plenty of opportunities for Cacco to put it all together — but only if Rangers manager Gerard Gallant gives the trio a legitimate run, of course.

Kaapo Kakko celebrates after scoring during Rangers’ 5-1 win over the Golden Knights.

“I was happy,” Kakko told The Post before climbing to the front row. “I think the first two periods [against St. Louis], I haven’t played that much. So when you see some guys play a lot and then get a little chance and then go back to the bench, it’s not good at all. This is not what you want to do. I love playing with both. I’ve been playing with Luffy for a long time.

“First [13] Season games I played [Chris Kreider] and Micah. I like those guys too. Mika was with us, I know he plays a lot. So if you play with it, you will be there a lot. I was happy about it.”

Kakko is clearly itching for more playing time. An extended look to the right flank of Zibanejad’s line should do his bidding.

Vitaliy Kravtsov was left out as Gallant gave the youngsters another top-six opportunity. Kravtsov was a healthy scratch on Wednesday night, seemingly confident after skating through the previous four games. Barclay Goodrow replaces Artemi Panarin on his right wing and Filip Chytil, who has missed two games with a lower back injury.

Given how the changes in the top six positively affected the Rangers’ last game, here is how Lafreniere-Zibanejad-Kakko and Panarin-Chytil-Kravtsov will look against the Golden Knights would be a great opportunity to see.

“Because I like him, I think he fits in there,” Gallant said of why Goodrow replaced Kravtsov. “The coach’s decision.”

Since he was recalled prior to the Rangers’ 5-2 loss to the Blackhawks, he has been healthy since Johnny Brodzinski skated the last two games. Brodzinski centered the fourth line between Sammy Blais and Julien Gauthier

Center Ryan Carpenter was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. … Defenseman Ben Harpur, who was recalled after Zach Jones was demoted to the AHL, hit his fourth straight start.


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