Zibanejad’s OT goal lifts Rangers past Canadiens 3-2
MONTREAL (AP) — Mika Zibanejad was in the right place at the right time. The rest was just a blur.
Zibanejad scored at 14:22 of overtime to give the New York Rangers a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.
Chris Kreider’s shot on a rush went off Alexei Emelin’s stick right to Zibanejad for a shot into an open side. It was Zibanejad’s third career playoff goal.
“Kreider came in and tried to shoot,” he said. “I just tried to get to the net and it took a fortunate bounce for us.
“I just tried to whack it to the net and then I kind of blacked out. I can’t remember much after that.”
Zibanejad then was mobbed by the rest of the Rangers, who can advance to the second round with a win in Game 6 on Saturday night in New York.
Jesper Fast and Brady Skjei also scored for New York. Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves.
“A guy tries to shoot and it goes off a stick right to Mika — that’s a summary of playoff hockey right there in overtime,” Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. “It’s not going to be a perfectly clean tic-tac-toe play. It’s going to be something off a stick or a body in front.
“It was nice that it was a clean goal and we were able to celebrate it and enjoy it.”
Artturi Lehkonen scored and set up a goal by Brendan Gallagher in the first period for Montreal. Carey Price had 33 stops.
It was a game of two halves, with the Canadiens controlling most of the play in the first 30 minutes before the Rangers took over with a strong checking and counter-attacking game.
The Canadiens, who once led the series 2-1, will be looking for more from some of their top players in Game 6. Captain Max Pacioretty is still looking for his first goal of the series. He looked to have the game on his stick during a third-period breakaway but was stopped by Lundqvist.
But Montreal coach Claude Julien said he’s not the only one.
“In order to get through this, we’ll need more from a lot of guys,” he said. “It’s time for certain players to elevate their game and have that confidence and desire to be better.
“There’s no doubt when you lose games and you’re behind 3-2 you can’t be satisfied as a team. There’s certain players as we all know that can give us more and hopefully that’s going to happen.”
Mats Zuccarello wasted a glittering chance to give New York an early lead when he couldn’t lift the puck over Price’s pad from the doorstep in the opening minute.
Montreal then struck first when Lehkonen fought off Marc Staal to put a spin-around shot off the side of the net and score on a wraparound at 12:07.
The Rangers responded with a short-handed goal. Kevin Hayes was in the box for holding when Fast finished a 2-on-2 counterattack after taking a slick feed from Zibanejad at 15:56.
Only 25 seconds later, Andrei Markov slipped a pass into the slot for an unguarded Gallagher to score on a snap shot.
Skjei tied it at 18:28 of the second frame. Rick Nash took the puck to the net and Skjei knocked the rebound into an open side.
Skjei became the first Rangers rookie defenseman with two playoff goals since Brian Leetch had three in 1989.
Montreal forward Phillip Danault hit a post on a short-handed chance in the opening minute of the third, and Kreider had a chance to end the game 10 minutes into overtime but whiffed on a Zibanejad pass at the doorstep.
NOTES: Emelin saw his first action of the series on Montreal’s third defense pairing, replacing Brandon Davidson. The Russian missed six games with an undisclosed injury.