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Zibanejad's OT Winner Preserves Raanta's Shutout

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

TAMPA, FL. --- Mika Zibanejad made sure Antti Raanta's exceptional performance was not wasted. 

With the Rangers and Lightning scoreless through regulation and nearly four minutes of overtime, Zibanejad received a pass from Ryan McDonagh at center ice and broke in and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy with 1:04 left in overtime to start the Rangers' four-game road trip with a 1-0 victory.

"Score," Zibanejad said when asked what was going through his head in the moments before he beat the goaltender low glove side for his ninth goal of the season. "I think you get those opportunities in overtime, you make sure you take advantage of it. I'm glad I was able to do that."

Video: NYR@TBL: Zibanejad breaks in and fires home OT winner

Head coach Alain Vigneault said he expected Raanta to provide the Rangers with strong goaltending against the Lightning Monday night. Even he couldn't expect what his netminder gave.

Raanta turned in arguably the best performance of his season in making 38 saves for his third shutout of the season.

"It's been feeling good," Raanta said. "Even though there has been little breaks. All Star break, [I was] hurt that kind of stuff. We just have been doing the right things in practice. When you get the chance to get the game, you go there just focused hard and just try to keep yourself going there."

Raanta was good early and often against a Lightning squad filled with offensive weapons. He denied Ondrej Palat with his right pad in the first period, and made a flurry of saves midway through a second period that saw the Rangers outshot 16-12.

Video: NYR@TBL: Raanta slides to deny Namestnikov, Sustr

Raanta's best save came in the dying seconds of regulation when he stopped Nikita Kucherov to send the game to overtime.

"Just a little bit lucky and into the glove and over," Raanta said of the save. "When I didn't' hear anything I was sure it went in. I was like 'this is it,' but sometimes you have luck and it stayed out and it stayed out and we got two points so I'm happy about that."

Zibanejad's overtime-winner was his second goal in the extra period this season, with his first coming back on Feb. 25 against the Devils. That time he went five-hole, this time he tried something else from his arsenal.

"I try not to think," Zibanejad said. "It's something I've done before. It's one of the few moves I have. Try and be good at the few moves you have instead of having millions of options."

The shutout was a new career-high for Raanta, and his teammates were quick to praise the backup netminder for continuing to provide strong performances whenever called upon.

"It's incredible," captain Ryan McDonagh said. "The backup role, it's not easy. You never know when you're time is going to come. It just seems like he comes in and it's right in rhythm right away. He really made some game-changing saves there." 

Vigneault said he was pleased with his team's competitiveness tonight, which will have to carry over tomorrow as the road trip continues against the Panthers.

"Hard fought game by both teams," Vigneault said. "I like the way we competed. We executed better and we're getting out of here because we have another game tomorrow night."

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