NEWARK, N.J. — Another birthday for the New York Rangers. Another big day for the birthday boy.
A day after Pavel Buchnevich scored a hat trick on his big day, Mika Zibanejad celebrated his 28th birthday and helped the Rangers cap a four-game sweep of the Devils with a game-winning, power-play goal with three minutes to play in a 5-3 win on Sunday.
The win kept New York four points behind Boston in the East with 11 games left in the regular season. The Bruins, who have played two fewer games, beat Washington 6-3 earlier Sunday.
“We put ourselves in a good spot so we try to take the game one at a time,” said Zibanejad after the Rangers extended their season-high point streak to six games (5-0-1). “Sounds very cliche but that’s all we can do. Just worry about the next game and try to get the two points and move on, but that’s our focus right now.”
The Rangers haven't made life easy on themselves. They opened a four-goal lead on Saturday and saw New Jersey get within one, and then had a three-goal lead Sunday only to see the Devils tie the game.
“We found a way to get it done,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “Playing a team four times in a row and you come up with four wins, I don’t care what it looks like, I don’t care how many leads you blew, I don’t care; it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t if you find ways to win and that’s what we did.”
Chris Kreider, Vitali Kravtsov, Alexis Lafreniere and Ryan Strome also scored for the Rangers, who are 13-4-3 in their past 20 games. Alexandar Georgiev, who had to leave the ice late in the first period when his knee locked after being hit by a shot, returned at the start of the second period and finished with 25 saves.
Mikhail Maltsev, Marian Studenic and Nico Hischier scored for the Devils, who rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game. Mackenzie Blackwood had 21 saves as the Devils lost their sixth straight and fell to 1-8-2 in their past 11.
“It’s frustrating,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “I’m trying to make sure I can keep them up. But I asked a lot. I thought we got a lot out of them. I thought we battled back hard.”
Zibanejad, who has points in six straight games, got the winner on the Rangers sixth power play after being set up between the circles by Strome.
Strome was awarded a goal late after being hooked on a breakaway with the Devils net empty.
“We don’t really care how we score the goals, as long as we got at least more than them and you get the two points,” Zibanejad said.
The Rangers opened a 3-0 lead in the second period, getting a power-play goal by Kreider, Kravtsov's first NHL goal and another by Lafreniere.
Maltsev scored late in the second and tallies by Studenic — his first in the NHL — and Hischier in the opening 5:30 of the third to tie the game.
Igor Shesterkin made two saves late in the first period before Georgiev returned for the final 40 minutes.
Devils centre Jack Hughes, the top pick in the 2019 draft, was so annoyed with a second-period penalty call for tripping, he slammed his stick against the glass. He got a 10-minute misconduct for that one.
Coming into the game, Hughes had been called for one minor penalty in 43 games this season. He had 10 minutes in 61 games last year. He surpassed the total in one fit of anger.
The Devils' goals came with Hughes in the penalty box.
ANOTHER DEVILS DEBUT
Forward Nolan Foote became the sixth Devil to make his NHL debut this season. He joins Maltsev, Studenic, Ty Smith, Yegor Sharangovich, Tyce Thompson in the group. He got an assist on the Hischier goal
Foote's father, Adam, won Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001 with Colorado in a 19-year career. His brother, Cal, is a defenceman for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
NOTES: Rangers D Anthony Bitetto played for the first time since Feb. 24, a span of 27 games. D Libor Hajek got the day off. ... Kreider's goal was his 10th on the power play, among the best in the league. His 19 goals overall are tied with Pavel Buchnevich for the team lead. ... Devils F Andreas Johnsson snapped a 13-game point drought with an assist on Studenic's goal.
Rangers: head to Long Island to face the Islanders on Tuesday.
Devils: Travel to Pittsburgh for the first of three straight against the Penguins.
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