Mika Zibanejad owns the Flyers again, scores twice in New York Rangers 3-1 win

NHL: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Mika Zibanejad’s dominance over the Philadelphia Flyers continued as the New York Rangers grabbed an early lead they would not relinquish in a 3-1 win.

For the Rangers’ top center, it was career goals 17 and 18 against the Flyers, which is tied for most against an NHL team along with the Washington Capitals.

“I can’t explain it,” Zibanejad said of his penchant to score against the Flyers. “The season we’ve had so far has made the personal struggle easier to handle. As long as we win, I don’t really care.”

The Blueshirts victory over Philly, coupled with the Boston Bruins loss to the Detroit Red Wings, sets up a battle for first overall in the NHL tomorrow.

Related: Is it time to reset expectations for Kaapo Kakko

New York Rangers vs Philadelphia Flyers

NHL: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The Blueshirts came out of the starting gate flying all over the home team. Before the Flyers could shrug their shoulders to indicate what just happened, two goals were scored in 68 seconds.

First it was Mika Zibanejad, who converted a nice feed from Blake Wheeler off a 2-on-1 rush 45 seconds into the first period. Chris Kreider would notch the other assist.

“You see a guy like Mika coming down the other wing,” Wheeler said on the MSG broadcast. “You’re going to do whatever you can to get him the puck.”

Off an offensive zone draw, the Flyers inexplicably coughed up the puck to Kreider alone in the slot for an easy score past poor Carter Hart at the 1:53 mark. The Rangers are now 40-11-6 when Zibanejad and Kreider tally goals in the same game.

The Flyers tried to get things going by oddly targeting Jacob Trouba. New York’s captain not only manhandled the two forecheckers, but also watched as Garnet Hathaway bounced off him after an open ice hit in the neutral zone. Barclay Goodrow took exception to the Flyers going after his teammate and dropped the mitts with Hathaway to return a message.

For the most part, Igor Shesterkin was solid in the first period, stopping all 12 shots hurled his way. Meanwhile, his defense was also there when he needed it, including Ryan Lindgren making a huge block off a Flyers shot at a wide open net.

Towards the end of the opening frame, the Flyers once again opted to go after the Rangers’ defense. This time it was Hathaway catching Lindgren with a hard hit. Rookie Will Cuylle didn’t like it and opted to drop the gloves with the Flyers’ agitator. Unfortunately, he was called for an instigator penalty and a 10 minute misconduct. New York successfully killed it off.

In the middle stanza, the Flyers continued their physical play, but were still kept at bay by the Rangers. Almost like a snake lying in wait, Zibanejad once again found a way to get by the Philly defense and tipped a beautiful Wheeler feed for his second of the game and a 3-0 lead at the 12:19 mark.

Philadelphia would get that one back with 2:21 remaining in the second period. Sean Couturier deflected a point shot by Shesterkin to make it 3-1 heading into the final frame.

New York opened the third period by killing off a Lindgren tripping call picked up in the last minute of the second. From there, they did a good job of keeping the Flyers bottled up and unable to generate offense.

A furious push by the Flyers began with 12 minutes left, however, Shesterkin stopped two shots point blank and Trouba made a diving play on an attempted wrap around to prevent a goal. The pressure led to more Flyers power plays that the Rangers were able to kill, going 6 for 6 on the day.

The Flyers press continued with Hart pulled with over two minutes left, but if it wasn’t Shesterkin batting pucks away, it was Bonino adding to his team-leading shot-blocking totals.

When the buzzer sounded the Rangers secured the victory and finished this latest road-trip with a 3-1-0 record.

It was a really good win on the road,” coach Peter Laviolette noted. “They’ve had success being physical and getting back on defense quick. We did a good job of exploiting that and having good looks off the rush.”

Rangers Notes

  • Igor Shesterkin made 36 saves on 37 shots
  • Mika Zibanejad registered 2 goals
  • Chris Kreider notched a goal and an assist
  • Blake Wheeler registered 2 assists

The Rangers will now head back home to take on the Boston Bruins for another 1 p.m. ET puck drop. Head coach Peter Laviolette will address the media at 10:40 a.m. ET.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore