Zibanejad’s goal lifts Rangers past Canadiens

MONTREAL (AP) — Mika Zibanejad was in the right place at the right time. The rest was just a blur.

Zibanejad scored at 14:22 of overtime to give the New York Rangers a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.

Chris Kreider’s shot on a rush went off Alexei Emelin’s stick right to Zibanejad for a shot into an open side. It was Zibanejad’s third career playoff goal.

“Kreider came in and tried to shoot,” he said. “I just tried to get to the net and it took a fortunate bounce for us.

“I just tried to whack it to the net and then I kind of blacked out. I can’t remember much after that.”

Zibanejad then was mobbed by the rest of the Rangers, who can advance to the second round with a win in Game 6 on Saturday night in New York.

Jesper Fast and Brady Skjei also scored for New York. Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves.

“A guy tries to shoot and it goes off a stick right to Mika — that’s a summary of playoff hockey right there in overtime,” Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. “It’s not going to be a perfectly clean tic-tac-toe play. It’s going to be something off a stick or a body in front.

“It was nice that it was a clean goal and we were able to celebrate it and enjoy it.”

Artturi Lehkonen scored and set up a goal by Brendan Gallagher in the first period for Montreal. Carey Price had 33 stops.

It was a game of two halves, with the Canadiens controlling most of the play in the first 30 minutes before the Rangers took over with a strong checking and counter-attacking game.

The Canadiens, who once led the series 2-1, will be looking for more from some of their top players in Game 6. Captain Max Pacioretty is still looking for his first goal of the series. He looked to have the game on his stick during a third-period breakaway but was stopped by Lundqvist.

But Montreal coach Claude Julien said he’s not the only one.

“In order to get through this, we’ll need more from a lot of guys,” he said. “It’s time for certain players to elevate their game and have that confidence and desire to be better.

“There’s no doubt when you lose games and you’re behind 3-2 you can’t be satisfied as a team. There’s certain players as we all know that can give us more and hopefully that’s going to happen.”

Montreal then struck first when Lehkonen fought off Marc Staal to put a spin-around shot off the side of the net and score on a wraparound at 12:07.

The Rangers responded with a short-handed goal. Kevin Hayes was in the box for holding when Fast finished a 2-on-2 counterattack after taking a slick feed from Zibanejad at 15:56.

Only 25 seconds later, Andrei Markov slipped a pass into the slot for an unguarded Gallagher to score on a snap shot.

Skjei tied it at 18:28 of the second frame. Rick Nash took the puck to the net and Skjei knocked the rebound into an open side.

Skjei became the first Rangers rookie defenseman with two playoff goals since Brian Leetch had three in 1989.

Predators 4,

Blackhawks 1

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Roman Josi scored twice, Pekka Rinne had 30 saves and the Nashville Predators beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Thursday night to complete a surprising sweep of the Western Conference’s top seed.

Colton Sissons also scored and Viktor Arvidsson added an empty-net goal as Nashville completed the franchise’s first playoff sweep. Led by Rinne’s shutouts in the first two games, the Predators limited the high-scoring Blackhawks to just three goals in 13 periods.

Nashville will face the winner of the St. Louis-Minnesota series in the second round. The Blues have a 3-1 lead heading into Game 5 on Saturday in Minnesota.

Chicago became the first No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round since the Los Angeles Kings knocked off the Vancouver Canucks on their way to the Stanley Cup title in 2012.

Penguins 5, Blue Jackets 2

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Sidney Crosby and Scott Wilson scored 51 seconds apart in the third period, helping the Penguins eliminate the Blue Jackets in Game 5 of their first-round series.

Bryan Rust scored twice for Pittsburgh, Phil Kessel added his second of the playoffs and Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 49 saves. The defending Stanley Cup champions will face the winner of the Toronto-Washington series in the conference semifinals starting next week.

William Karlsson and Boone Jenner scored for the Blue Jackets, but Sergei Bobrovsky stopped just 27 of 32 shots to finish a forgettable series.

Columbus trailed by three in the second period but had a potential tying goal waved off in the third for interference. Pittsburgh responded immediately. Crosby’s one-timer on the power play restored a two-goal lead and Wilson’s backhand less than a minute later finished off the Blue Jackets.

By Chad Fleck

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