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Zibanejad takes responsibility for overtime blunder in Game 4


The New York Rangers had an opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 series lead in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Panthers, but after some overtime penalty trouble, they head back to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 tied 2-2. 

Early in the first overtime period of Game 4, Rangers forward Blake Wheeler attempted to corral a pass from teammate Mika Zibanejad, but it was poked away by Panthers defenceman Niko Mikkola, who got the puck to Aleksander Barkov. Wheeler then took a hooking penalty on Barkov to prevent him from getting a clean breakaway on Igor Shesterkin.

Wheeler went to the box and just seconds later on the power play, Panthers forward Sam Reinhart sniped home the overtime winner from the slot to tie the series. 

Zibanejad took responsibility after the game for his poor pass to Wheeler. 

"It's making decisions," said Zibanejad. "I [saw Wheeler] kind of coming towards me. I think he's open because [forward Will Cuylle] is going to the net, trying to make the play and they poke it and go the other way. I should have probably just made a different play, or decision, but I made the decision there then. I can't change it now. That's sports. I can just come back and try to make another decision next time and hope it goes my way."

"Yeah, I mean, he's jammed up there on that call and just worked backward," Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette said of Wheeler's penalty. "But he came out and I thought he gave us some good minutes. It was a long road for him to get back and I thought he came in -- there were times where [Barclay] Goodrow, [Matt] Rempe and Wheeler put it in the offensive zone, and they actually stayed down there and were able to occupy some time and spend some minutes down there. So, for his first game back in a while I thought he was good."

Game 4 was Wheeler’s first game back in the lineup since Feb. 15, where he has been working his way back from a lower-body injury. He began skating on his own on April 19 and then took part in full practices in a red non-contact jersey. Wheeler was cleared for full contact on May 13. 

He had 9:18 of ice time skating on the fourth line with Goodrow and Rempe. In the regular season, he had nine goals and 21 points in 54 games in his first campaign as a Ranger.