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Zibanejad’s Five (!!!) Goals Lead Rangers to Dramatic Win Against Caps

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It’s a team game, but sometimes one player takes over.

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

1st Period

Alexandar Georgiev started the period off well with a handful of tough saves, including a breakaway stop against Richard Panik. However, he let in a weak goal for the second-straight game. Carl Hagelin beat Georgiev from a perimeter shot.

Soon after, the Rangers’ lethal power play was afforded an opportunity and the usual players hooked up to even the score. The Rangers’ five-man unit cycled the puck around the offensive zone before finding its way to Artemi Panarin, whose slap pass was redirected in front by Mika Zibanejad.

Second Period

Mika Zibanejad got tripped in the offensive zone and drew a delayed penalty, but the Rangers kept the play alive. Adam Fox and Pavel Buchnevich traded possession before Fox sent it to the left-wing circle for Zibanejad. Zibanejad put a hard shot on net, though Capitals’ goaltender Ilya Samsonov likely wishes he did better.

Later in the period, Ilya Kovalchuk scored his first as a Capital. He rifled a great shot off the classic low-to-high pass, though Alexander Georgiev did not read the play well, dropping to his knees rather than pushing off his post to challenge the shot on his skates.

Tony DeAngelo then put the Rangers back in the lead. Artemi Panarin made a brilliant pass across the ice to Deangelo, who had activated from the blue line into open space on the far side.

However, it was a matter of seconds before Washington evened the score. Marc Staal made an aggressive attempt to defend Michal Kempny and was beat badly down the outside lane. He sent a slow pass across to Garnet Hathaway, who beat Georgiev.

Third Period

Seconds after the opening faceoff for the third period, Evgeny Kuznetsov turned the puck over to Pavel Buchnevich behind the Capitals’ net. Buchnevich made a quick pass above the goal line to Zibanejad, who put it into the gaping net and completed the hat-trick.

Halfway through the third, the Capitals tied it. At four-on-four, the Capitals were sprung on a three-on-two opportunity. John Carlson entered the zone and made an early pass across to Alexander Ovechkin, who in typical fashion unleashed a lethal shot off the rush and beat Georgiev.

The Rangers drew three-straight penalties late in the third period; two of them taken by Lars Eller. Despite generating some fantastic looks on the first two chances, they could not convert. They finally struck on the third opportunity. Kaapo Kakko entered the zone with possession and took a hard slap shot. Samsonov made the save, but the velocity on the puck resulted in a hard bank off the boards behind the net to a waiting Mika Zibanejad at the far post, who potted home his fourth of the night.

It seemed like the Rangers were headed to a dramatic victory, but the Capitals made a late push to force the game to overtime. With their net empty, the Capitals moved the puck to John Carlson at the point, who unleashed a tough, high shot. Georgiev made the initial save, but it was in an awkward spot which made it tough to control the rebound. The Rangers lost Ovechkin at the backdoor and he scored his second of the game.

Overtime

The Rangers would earn the dramatic victory after all. Early in overtime, Panarin sent a stretch pass to Zibanejad, who accelerated past two Capitals and backhanded a breakaway past Samsonov to record only the third ever five-goal game in Rangers history.

Final Thoughts

Let’s save the intricate analysis for the coaching staff to think about Friday morning. Sometimes you have to appreciate a game for what it was. The Rangers’ best players out-performed the Washington Capitals’ best players, which would have been unimaginable without discussing goaltending in practically any other year. That was the difference. Mika Zibanejad had a historic night. Alexandar Georgiev had a rough game, but let’s be fair. He’s kept this team in games they haven’t deserved to be in numerous times this season. It was about time the favor was returned.

This win, coupled with losses for the Hurricanes, Islanders, and Panthers, goes a long way in keeping the Rangers realistically in the playoff picture.