When Kaapo Kakko ended an 11-game goal-scoring drought Tuesday by burying a rebound for a short-lived, 2-1, third-period lead in a game the Rangers lost, 3-2, to the Hurricanes, the Finn did not exhale a sigh of relief.
That’s because, though goals are hardly immaterial, the 22-year-old winger has immediate goals beyond scoring.
“I don’t think about the number of goals I have. I think about what I can do best for the team and about what our line can do to help us win,” Kakko, who has a career-high 13 goals this season, told The Post before his team chartered to Raleigh, N.C., for a Thursday night rematch against Carolina. “Our role has changed a little bit since the deadline, we don’t get the same amount of ice time. We have to take advantage when we get the chance.
“I think we are in the same situation as a line as we were going into last year’s playoffs. We have the same role. We need to be as good as we were last year.”
The Rangers have killed 24 of 26 power plays they have faced over the past 10 games, dating to March 2 against Ottawa, including 24 of 24 while playing four-on-five.
The two power-play goals against the Rangers in that span both came in Pittsburgh on March 12, when the Penguins scored on a five-on-three before getting the four-on-three overtime winner.
“We had gone through a little dip before this stretch and talked about being more aggressive and attacking earlier in certain situations,” said Jimmy Vesey, who has been paired with Barclay Goodrow on the penalty-kill unit behind the tandem of Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. “We want to be quick to the wall or when there’s a bobble.
“We want to put immediate pressure when the puck is dumped in and rims around the yellow. I think we’ve been making good reads on passes just about all year but we want to disrupt plays as much as possible.”
The Rangers’ surge has elevated them to 14th in the NHL at 80.4 percent.
“I don’t like to use clichés,” Vesey said. “But sometimes the goalie has to be your best penalty-killer. We’ve had that, too.”
The Rangers will play at the Panthers on Saturday to conclude a two-game jaunt to warmer climes before the Blue Jackets come to the Garden on Tuesday.