Zibanejad’s Hat-Trick Leads NYR to Victory Against NJ Devils
New York center records three goals and an assist.
The spotlight truly shined on Mika Zibanejad Thursday night in New Jersey as the New York Rangers defeated the Devils 4-3. Zibanejad was attributed three of the four goals and collected his second NHL career hat-trick, his first as a Ranger.
Not only was Zibanejad’s third goal of the night the game winner, but it also marked his 20th of the season.
“It’s a nice milestone but tonight I’d rather take the win and move on, we have a big week coming up here with a lot of home games and a good opportunity for us to make in impact on our playoff run here,” said Zibanejad modestly.
This Battle of the Hudson River was not short of excitement. The first period started off a little slow for the Rangers with six total PIM, trailing the Devils in shots (8-6) and entering the second period with a 2-1 deficit. In the second period, the Rangers brought more pucks to the net, beating the Devils in shots (12-5), only taking two PIM, and with Zibanejad’s second goal to end the second as a tie game, with a lively third period to follow.
Early in the third, Chris Kreider gave the Rangers the 3-2 lead, however the Devils fired back about a minute later with a goal from Egor Yakovlev to tie it up once again 3-3. It wasn’t until there was 4:36 left in the third that Zibanejad put in the backhand game winner. After clinching two points last night, the Rangers fall just eight points short of Columbus for the second wild card spot in the eastern conference.
With Zuccarello back in the lineup, the Kreider-Zibanejad-Zuccarello (KZZ) line was back in action and operated at full strength. Within the last six games which all three Ranger stars were on the ice together, the KZZ line collectively secured 31 points with 15 goals and 16 assists total.
“I want to get that line as much ice time as possible,” said Rangers coach, David Quinn after the line totaled eight points Thursday night.
The offensive chemistry between these three players has proved to remain an important asset to the team and Mika Zibanejad doesn’t deny that being a part of the trio has been working in his favor, “We’re understanding the game pretty similar and we have a pretty clear idea of how we want to play and it’s just fun, fun hockey.”
Not only is it the match of the players skill-set, but Mika also attributes the lines success to the fun that they have together while they play, “You see guys that are really skilled playing together and it doesn’t really work. And right now it works out, we have great chemistry, were having a lot of fun out there and we’re winning hockey games.”
If this line continues to dominate the way it has been, clinching a playoff spot no longer seems a world away. Now all Ranger fans can do is hope that their beloved KZZ line stays healthy, and that no heartbreaking trades take place *cough cough* *Jeff Gorton*.
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