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Mika Zibanejad caps dominant OT for Rangers in Game 5

Forward 'blacks out' after scoring game-winner against Canadiens, moves New York one victory from advancing

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

MONTREAL - At some point, New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad is going to see the beauty of his game-winning goal. He didn't remember much in the immediate aftermath of it, having scored 14:22 into overtime to put his team up 3-2 over the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference First Round best-of-7 series on Thursday. 

"I blacked out, to be honest with you," Zibenajad said with a laugh in the locker room, speaking beneath the Broadway Hat voted by the Rangers to their most valuable player of the game.

 

[RELATED: Complete Rangers vs. Canadiens series coverage | Canadiens can't get going in OT, lose Game 5]

 

"It's a great feeling to get the win and to get that goal personally, as well," Zibanejad said. "It's a little revenge from the last overtime (a 4-3 win by the Canadiens in Game 2)."

New York can advance to the second round with a victory in Game 6 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Rangers thoroughly dominated overtime Thursday after having swung the game their way through the third period, outshooting the Canadiens 10-3 in the extra period.

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm5: Zibanejad buries one-timer for OT win

New York had its chances before Zibanejad scored, most notably a glorious opportunity missed on a one-timer whiffed by forward Chris Kreider, who was parked to the left of goalie Carey Price.

But there was no sense of doom on the Rangers bench with that swing and miss, New York fully in control. It was fitting, then, that Kreider would set up the winning goal, skating along the boards to carom an intended shot off the stick of Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin. The puck changed route perfectly to a rushing Zibanejad, who had slipped behind defenseman Jordie Benn. Zibanejad made no mistake, burying his redirection past Price.

"I just tried to get to the net," Zibanejad said. "It took a lucky bounce for us. I just tried to whack it to the net and when it went in, I just kind of blacked out.

"It's nice when you get to do it," he added of the winning goal, his first Stanley Cup Playoff overtime goal. "But at this point in the playoffs, you don't care who scores it."

The winner was the Zibanejad's second impressive play of the game. He set up Jesper Fast for the Rangers' first goal, shorthanded, when he knocked a pass by Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk out of mid-air and rushed up ice to feed Fast with a crafty pass against two Montreal defenders.

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm5: Fast buries Zibanejad's feed for SHG

 Zibanejad also had four blocked shots, four hits and was plus-2 to go with his goal and assist.

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, like his teammates, felt the momentum swing New York's way late in the second period when Brady Skjei's goal at 18:38 tied it 2-2, and continue through the third and overtime.

"We tied it up, had a couple looks in the third and we just kept coming in overtime," Girardi said.

The feeling on the Rangers bench after Kreider whiffed on what could have been the game-winner was unchanged.

"The puck was bouncing for us all game so I don't think it really bothered us," Girardi said. "We had a lot of good shifts, good momentum. We kept coming and coming in waves, we felt it was just a matter of time before we broke through there. We were just staying with it."

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm5: Skjei buries a rebound past Price

Statistics and history suggest the Rangers are firmly in the driver's seat heading back to New York. Never have the Canadiens and Rangers gone the limit in the 11 series they've played since 1950 in a best-of-7 format; four times they've gone to six games, the Rangers winning each of those series.

And historically, an NHL team winning the fifth game when 2-2 in a best-of-7 has gone on to win the series 78.1 percent of the time.

"We're not a big fan of the statistics part of the game," Girardi said. "We need to have the mentality to win one game at home. It doesn't matter if we're up or down, we need to win the game at home at all costs. Our Game 4 effort (a 2-1 victory in New York) and tonight, we need to do the same thing in Game 6, just take care of the puck and make the plays when they're there.

"We had a really good overtime, a lot of good shifts. We're really excited about the overtime win here. We want to carry momentum to our rink but we need to have a level head here and know we need a great start and get our fans behind us.

This is now about winning one game, starting with the first shift and building momentum from there like we did in Game 4."

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