Stifling one third-period comeback is a matter of good fortune, but the Rangers cannot expect to have the same luck twice. However, that’s exactly what the Blueshirts got, when the Devils gifted them a late-game power play that Mika Zibanejad capitalized
Published: 2021-04-18 05:59 pm
Rangers stay in playoff race as Mika Zibanejad’s late goal beats Devils
nypost.com

Stifling one third-period comeback is a matter of good fortune, but the Rangers cannot expect to have the same luck twice.

However, that’s exactly what the Blueshirts got, when the Devils gifted them a late-game power play that Mika Zibanejad capitalized on to break a tie and secure a 5-3 win Sunday afternoon at Prudential Center. The victory completed the four-game sweep of the Devils, which the Rangers desperately needed in order to hang in the playoff race.

The Rangers carried a 3-1 lead into the third period, but for the second straight day, the Devils buried two quick goals with plenty of game left. On Saturday, the Devils only came within one and never managed to tie it. This time around, two was all they needed to even the score.

But Devils defenseman Ryan Murray was caught high-sticking Kaapo Kakko, giving the Rangers a timely man-advantage. Zibanejad carried over the birthday magic from Pavel Buchnevich on Saturday and banged home the game-winner with three minutes left in regulation.

Ryan Strome was then hooked on the way to an empty-net goal and credited with the 5-3 tally.

(image)
Mika Zibanejad (r.) celebrates his game-winning goal for Rangers on Sunday.
Getty Images

“Playing a team four times in a row, when you come up with four wins, I don’t care what it looks like,” head coach David Quinn said of the win, which kept the Rangers within four points of the fourth playoff spot and the Bruins, who have two games in hand. “I don’t care how many leads you blew. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t if you find ways to win and that’s what we did.

“Now, that being said, we certainly understand that if we’re going to have success, we’ve got to play better. We know that, that’s not lost on us, it’s not lost on the coaches and I don’t think it’s lost on any of the players.”

The Rangers had a scare at the end of the first period, when goalie Alexandar Georgiev had to be helped off the ice and hobbled down the tunnel favoring his left leg. Igor Shesterkin had to make two saves in 2:19 of ice time to finish the period before Georgiev returned to start the second.

Georgiev, who said after the game that his knee locked, was able to finish the game and ended up with 25 saves.

The Rangers spent a majority of the opening 20 minutes in the defensive zone as the Devils continuously maintained possession. But whenever the Devils made a mistake, the Rangers pounced, as they did the entire series.

With Devils captain Nico Hischier in the box for roughing Jacob Trouba, who was laying on the hits early and drew the ire of his opponents for it, Zibanejad hit Chris Kreider on the doorstep for the easy tap-in. Kreider’s tally at 6:31 gave him a career-high 10 power-play goals on the season.

It was the rookies who then propelled the Rangers to a 3-0 lead. Vitali Kravtsov blasted a one-timer for his first NHL goal at the end of the first before Alexis Lafreniere’s backhander on the rush early in the second built a comfortable margin.

After acknowledging that giving up leads in the third is something the team will have to talk about, Zibanejad made it clear that the Rangers’ sights are on the playoffs.

“We’ve put ourselves in a good spot,” he said. “So we try to take it a game at a time, and it sounds very cliché but that’s all we can do. Just worry about the next game and try to get the two points and move on.”

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