Think about how hard it is to score a goal in an average NHL game; you’ve got ten skaters on the ice, two goalies, and only one puck at any given time. It takes a certain amount of skill and luck to get in the right position, at the right time, with the right angle to get the puck past a NHL goaltender once a game. Over the course of the 2019-20 NHL season, since paused on March 12th due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 710 players scored at least one goal in a game. 606 players managed to score two goals in a single game, only 67 NHLers managed to pick up a hat trick last season, and only 7 of those players picking up 4 goals in an NHL game last season. All of this is to say that what Mika Zibanejad did the night of March 5th, 2020 at Madison Square Garden against the Washington Capitals was almost unheard of.
Five goals. In a single NHL game. This was a feat that’s only be done 4 times in the last two decades, most recently was Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets when he scored 5 against the Blues in 2018. If you want to get even more granular; this was the first time in 23 years that a player scored 5 goals in the game with the fifth goal being the overtime winner. The last one to do it was Sergei Fedorov in a game, fittingly enough, against the Capitals. In fact, it’s only been done twice in the 93 year history of the team, the last being Mark Pavelich in 1983 against the Hartford Whalers.
This moment was a capstone in a season for Zibanejad that saw him put up a career high 41 goals and 75 points in a 57 game campaign that was side-tracked in November by an upper-body injury. The five goal game also served as the high water mark of a season that saw a lot of twists and turns along the way and, presumably, ended with the Rangers within striking distance of a playoff spot. With the Rangers coming into the season with all the hope and hype surrounding the young players like Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox, there was a subplot of Mika Zibanejad stepping into a leadership role both on and off the ice and his 5 goal game was the tangible evidence of Zibanejad grabbing that role by the horns and cementing himself as that leader.
This moment not only capped off what was a wild game for the Rangers, as they needed all five of the Swedish-Iranian center’s goals to beat the Caps, but it was a moment that no fan will forget any time soon while also giving us a new, iconic, Sam Rosen call that echoed everyone’s internal monologue when Mika popped that fifth goal backhand over Washington goalie Ilya Samsonov: “MIKA ZIBANEJAD SCORED FIVE GOALS!! DO YOU BELIEVE IT?”