Rangers’ Zibanejad looks to extend scoring spree vs. Devils

NHL Hockey

Every time Mika Zibanejad shoots the puck lately, it feels like there’s a strong possibility it will go into the net.

At least it did Thursday when Zibanejad tied a team record by scoring five goals and leading the New York Rangers to a much-needed, 6-5 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals.

Zibanejad attempts to continue his tear Saturday night and the Rangers look to keep gaining ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race when they host the New Jersey Devils.

Zibanejad’s big night was capped by the game-winner 33 seconds into overtime on a breakaway, and he matched the team record held by Don Murdoch (1976) and Mark Pavelich (1983). It was the NHL’s first five-goal game since the Winnipeg Jets’ Patrik Laine accomplished the feat on Nov. 24, 2018, against the St. Louis Blues.

“The puck followed me today, I guess,” Zibanejad said after the game. “You look at the goals, and it’s unbelievable plays being made, and today I was at the right spot at the right time.”

Zibanejad’s monster night increased his career-high total to 38 goals. He has 16 in his past 13 games while taking 51 shots on goal.

Zibanejad also has a goal in nine of his last 10 games. According to NHL Stats and Information, Zibanejad is the sixth player in team history and first since Jaromir Jagr to get at a goal in at least nine games over a 10-game span.

The Rangers (21-18-4) are 9-4-0 during Zibanejad’s tear, and they snapped a three-game losing streak on Thursday.

The overtime victory put the Rangers within two points of the New York Islanders for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot. It also put them one point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes and two ahead of the Florida Panthers.

Alexandar Georgiev started in goal for the Rangers on Thursday, but it is possible rookie Igor Shesterkin could return Saturday from a broken rib sustained in a car accident in Brooklyn on Feb. 23. Shesterkin, who is 9-1-0 in his first 10 starts, last played Feb. 22 against the San Jose Sharks, but he practiced fully on Friday.

The Rangers have won two of three meetings with the Devils this season, outscoring them 10-3 in the past two matchups. New York rolled to a 4-0 rout in New Jersey on Nov. 30, then posted a 6-3 home win on Jan. 9.

“They’re one of our rivals,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “We need to come completely focused mentally and ready to go physically and be willing to pay a price to win a hockey game.”

The Devils (27-28-12) are coming off a 4-2 home win over the Western Conference-leading Blues on Friday.

Dakota Mermis scored his first career goal, Connor Carrick notched his first goal of the season, and Cory Schneider made 31 saves as the Devils ended St. Louis’ eight-game winning streak.

“I’m extremely proud of this group, the way we came in and battled,” Devils coach Alain Nasreddine said. “We had a game plan, and to beat a team like St. Louis, you got to stick to that plan for a full 60 minutes.”

New Jersey is attempting to sweep a back-to-back set for the third time this season. The Devils also did it Nov. 15-16 and Jan 11-12.

Mackenzie Blackwood likely will start in goal for the Devils on Saturday. He is 7-2-1 in 10 starts since losing the last meeting with the Rangers.

–Field Level Media

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