The NHL season was paused on March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. During the break in action, each NHL.com writer will look back on his or her favorite memory of the season so far. Today, staff writer Jon Lane writes about Mika Zibanejad scoring five goals for the New York Rangers on March 5.
Already a man of few words, New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad found it difficult to describe scoring five goals, including the winner in overtime, in a 6-5 victory against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on March 5.
"I feel like I'm speechless right now to be honest with you," he said. "Crazy game. It's a good team we're playing, and we find a way."
Zibanejad's performance helped the Rangers end a three-game losing streak and move within two points of the New York Islanders for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
It was one of the most memorable individual accomplishments I've covered as a reporter, including when Alex Rodriguez hit three home runs and had 10 RBIs for the New York Yankees against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium on April 26, 2005, and when Hideki Matsui drove in six runs in Game 6 of the 2009 World Series, when the Yankees won their 27th championship.
The best part of Zibanejad's game was watching him go toe-to-toe with Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin when the game was on the line. Zibanejad completed the hat trick 12 seconds into the third period to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead, and Ovechkin scored to tie it 4-4 at 9:22.
Zibanejad answered back by scoring his fourth goal, second on the power play, to make it 5-4 with 1:42 remaining in the third. But Ovechkin silenced the raucous crowd by tying it 5-5 with 43 seconds left.
Video: Zibanejad scores five goals to lift Rangers in OT
When I cover a game, the winning team doesn't matter, but a small part of me hoped Zibanejad had one more goal in him.
He did, ending the game when he scored on a breakaway 33 seconds into overtime, sending the Garden party to a fever pitch.
"The puck followed me today, I guess," Zibanejad said. "You look at the goals, some unbelievable plays were being made. Today, I was at the right spot at the right time. Obviously, a lot more happy that we won. It's a night I'll remember for a long time."
Zibanejad's magic dominated postgame discussions and sports talk radio in New York, and Rangers forward Ryan Strome referred to him as one of the most underrated players in the NHL.
"Just a real special night," Strome said. "If you look at our faces when he scored the last goal, I mean, we're just in awe of him and how special he's been for us. It's great to see him get a little recognition here."
Zibanejad became the fourth player to score five goals in an NHL game since 1997-98, and the first since Patrik Laine did it for the Winnipeg Jets on Nov. 24, 2018. He is also the third player to accomplish the feat in Rangers history, joining Mark Pavelich (Feb. 23, 1983) and Don Murdoch (Oct. 12, 1976).
All Rangers coach David Quinn could do was marvel.
"It will be hard-pressed to match that," Quinn said. "That was something. He gets the hat trick and just doesn't stop. Just sit back and watch it, enjoy it because it was a special night in so many ways for him and for us to win a game of that magnitude with the ebbs and flows of it. It was a special night, obviously, not just for Mika, but for all of us to be part of it."