By association, Mika Zibanejad is more or less replacing New York Rangers fan favorite Derick Brassard, whom the Rangers shipped over to Ottawa last summer in exchange for the Swede. A fan favorite, Brassard made his prescience felt during the postseason, scoring 44 points over a quarter of postseason trips prior to his departure. So, simply put, Zibanejad had to prove something this postseason.
And boy, did he ever in Game 5 of the Rangers Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
Zibanejad’s score in the last stages of sudden death overtime gave the Rangers a 3-2 win, the score matching their lead in the series as well.
Returning to Bell Centre after knotting things up at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers appeared doomed to repeat past mistakes, particularly of the woeful Game 3. They were outshot 16-9 in an eventful opening period, a chippy frame that continued the booming pace of the first four games. Montreal got on the board first, with Artturi Lehkonen stuffing his second goal of the series in to open things up. The Rangers tied it up via unconventional means, while killing off a penalty. Zibanejad broke out alongside Jesper Fast, and the latter scored his likewise second goal of the postseason to tie it up. Montreal, however, retook the lead just 24 seconds later as Brendan Gallagher, a pest to Rangers skaters all series, finally put in his first of the postseason on the same power play.
The first period, like numerous others in this, features duplicate fighting majors, as Brendan Smith and Andrew Shaw briefly departed.
Montreal likewise owned play for most of the second period, but the Rangers finally
got to work in the late stages. The period began with the Rangers killing off two quick penalties, and their offensive persistence finally paid off with 92 seconds remaining, as Brady Skjei scored his second career playoff goal to tie the game. The Rangers’ onslaught was just beginning, as they continued to get chances in the Montreal zone. Henrik Lundqvist played his part in net as well, making a huge save on a Max Pacioretty breakaway to keep the score tied, sending the teams into overtime for the second time in five games.
The Rangers took over in the extra session, dominating play with a 10-3 shot margin. After several missed opportunities, Zibanejad finally broke through, taking a sleek pass from Chris Kreider, the latter of whom made up for a fanned shot on an open net that could’ve won the game minutes earlier, and putting it past Carey Price to ignite the Rangers’ celebration. It was the Rangers first playoff overtime win since Game 7 of the 2015 Eastern semifinal, also known as Derek Stepan’s winner over Washington.
The Rangers will get a chance to clinch the series on Saturday night at home in Game 6 (8 PM, NBC).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490.