Zibanejad scored one in the first, one in the second and two in the third. His first goal tied the game after the Caps scored the first goal of the game, and each of his next four strikes broke a tie and put the Blueshirts on top.
"I feel like I'm speechless right now to be honest with you," says Zibanejad. "Crazy game, It's a good team we're playing, and we find a way. Even though they tie it up and they come after us right after we score, we kept it going and we found a way to win tonight."
"Obviously early on, he gets the hat trick, and he just doesn't stop," says Rangers coach David Quinn.
A night after falling 5-2 at home to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Caps were plagued by many of the same mistakes that cost them a night earlier. They took too many penalties, took them at the wrong times, and took too many of them too close together. The Caps also turned pucks over and weren't sharp in their own end. Zibanejad finished with eight shots on net, and he could have scored more than the five he got.
"It's getting too late in the season for players to take penalties and then we have to sit them," says Caps coach Todd Reirden, "because they can't go on the ice without taking a penalty. That's how the game started, and we battle and we end up doing some good things.
Video: Reirden Postgame | March 5
"And then you have to stop playing players because of uneven play from top to bottom, and you've got to constantly be in motion. I'm playing four different combinations of lines and different sets of [defense] pairs. And in terms of consistency from shift to shift, it needs to improve now. Major credit to us to get that goal at the end; that says a lot. And then we put our two best 3-on-3 guys out there in and we let a player score his fifth goal of the game."
The Caps got the strong start they were looking for; Washington managed the first eight shots on net of the game, and it scored on the eighth of those tries, taking a 1-0 lead on Carl Hagelin's short side goal at 7:05 of the first. After Nick Jensen's shot was blocked, Hagelin grabbed the loose puck and beat New York netminder Alexandar Georgiev from the right circle.
Prosperity didn't agree with the Caps. Less than 30 seconds after Hagelin's goal, Nic Dowd went off for tripping and the Rangers took advantage of the opportunity to tie the game when Zibanejad put home an Artemi Panarin point shot to tie the game at 9:01.
Dowd took an offensive-zone holding penalty on his next shift and was parked for essentially the remainder of the first period. Washington's offense was in park, too; it managed only one shot in the nearly 13 minutes left in the first after Hagelin's goal, an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot from distance with less than five minutes left in the frame.
New York took the lead early in the second period, scoring during a delayed penalty. After drawing a tripping call on Evgeny Kuznetsov, Zibanejad drifted over to the left side and waited for Adam Fox to tee him up from center point. From the outside of the left circle, Zibanejad's one-timer beat Ilya Samsonov to put the Rangers up 2-1 at 5:29.
Just after the midpoint of the middle period, the Caps drew even. Washington's fourth line started an offensive-zone shift, then gradually changed for the third line. Lars Eller was denied from in tight and then missed a follow-up but went behind the New York net to collect the loose puck. Ilya Kovalchuk hopped over the boards and onto the ice, and Eller fed him perfectly. Kovalchuk tied the game at 12:01 with a one-timer from the right dot, his first goal as a member of the Capitals.
Video: WSH@NYR: Kovalchuk wires home blistering slap shot
The Blueshirts regained the lead less than three minutes later. Panarin picked up a turnover in neutral ice and carried back into Washington territory. From the left half wall, he surveyed, then spotted Tony DeAngelo on the weak side. Panarin put it on his tape, and DeAngelo put it in the back of the net to make it 3-2 at 14:42.
Washington responded just 16 seconds later. Jonas Siegenthaler collected an errant New York feed in neutral ice and sent Richard Panik into the Rangers' zone along the right-wing wall. Panik carried down low, then put a backhand feed to Michal Kempny, up high on the opposite side. Kempny fired and Garnet Hathaway deflected it home for his second goal in as many nights to knot the score at 3-3 with 5:02 left in the second.
The seesaw struggle continued in the third. Seconds after the opening face-off, Kuznetsov turned the puck over behind his own net, and New York quickly converted. Zibanejad took a Pavel Buchnevich pass and buried it on the short side a dozen seconds into the third, restoring the Rangers' lead at 4-3.
With the two sides playing 4-on-4 hockey midway through the third, Caps captain Alex Ovechkin converted a John Carlson dish to make it a 4-4 game at 9:22.
Video: WSH@NYR: Ovechkin nets wrist shot for equalizer
Wednesday's game got away from the Caps when they took three unwise and unnecessary penalties in short succession at the outset of the second period. Late in the third against the Rangers, the Caps were guilty of the same sins.
Eller was boxed for roughing at 12:52. The Caps killed it off, but Carlson was sent off for cross-checking three seconds later. The Caps killed off all but the last two seconds when Eller made a return trip to the penalty box for hi-sticking. Killing all three was asking too much, and Zibanejad netted his second power-play goal of the night with 1:42 left, taking a bounce off the back wall and tucking it behind Samsonov to make it 5-4.
The Caps have been lethal at 6-on-5 this season, and that unit scraped them a point when Ovechkin netted his second of the game with 42.9 seconds left in regulation.
That set the stage for overtime. New York won the opening draw and never surrendered possession, and Panarin sent Zibanejad in alone on a regroup to give the Rangers the win, halting their three-game skid.
"I'm confident with the team," says Ovechkin. "I know the response is there. We just have to realize we have to play smart, and we have to play simple. As soon as we start thinking too much, we do some stupid decisions on the ice. It cost us the game, and it cost us goals in our net."
Zibanejad is the third player in Rangers history to score five goals in a game, and the second player to victimize the Caps for five goals in a single game. Hockey Hall of Famer Sergei Fedorov scored five against Washington in a 5-4 Red Wings win over Washington on Dec. 26, 1996 at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. Fedorov also notched his fifth goal of that game in overtime.