Only linemate Chris Kreider has been with the Rangers longer than Mika Zibanejad.
They were each with the organization the last time the Blueshirts won a playoff series in 2017, and so they contributed mightily over the past couple of games to assist front the Rangers to a seven-game ousting of the Penguins with a 4-3 additional time victory Sunday night on the Garden.
Zibanejad netted the game-tying goal late within the third period after which assisted on Artemi Panarin’s additional time winner on the facility play to complete the ultimate two games of the series with three goals and 7 points.
“Like I’ve been repeating, like everyone’s been repeating, we didn’t want the season to finish,” Zibanejad said. “This has been our team all 12 months. Regardless of how the sport goes, we stick together and we work and we all know what we’ve in that locker room.
Mika Zibanejad celebrates after his game-tying goal. Corey Sipkin for the NY POST
“We said before the third we didn’t have anything to save lots of it for. Doing the little things to attempt to advance pucks and take a look at to win the one-on-one battles that’s what we talked about. Obviously the intensity level and just a little little bit of desperation kicks in when the clock starts winding down.”
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The Rangers, who overcame two-goal deficits to win each of the previous two games after falling behind 3-1 to open the series, trailed for much of the third period after Pittsburgh’s Evan Rodrigues had tallied a shorthanded goal late within the second.
Zibanejad collected a loose puck within the slot and fired it past returning Pens goalie Tristan Jarry for the equalizer with 5:45 left within the third.
“He’s been our greatest two-way player all 12 months, and he finds a puck within the slot, and as everyone knows, he knows where that corner is,” head coach Gerard Gallant said.
The 29-year-old Zibanejad has been with the Rangers since a trade from Ottawa in 2016, and he signed a eight-year contract extension value $68 million in 2021. The Swedish center said the atmosphere on the Garden was unlike any he’s heard, especially the emotional eruption after he assisted on Panarin’s OT winner.
“It’s crazy. I don’t think I’ve heard this constructing louder than that,” Zibanejad said. “People have been talking about Game 7 here and the gang was unreal tonight. … Being back within the playoffs here was something I used to be looking forward to and with the team that we’ve, it’s incredible.”