Mika Zibanejad, Rangers offense explodes in thrashing of Flyers

Entering Wednesday night, the Rangers had not dealt the Flyers a regulation loss since March 31, 2019.

Perhaps there was a lot pent up, because the Rangers absolutely unloaded on Philadelphia in a whopping 9-0win, chasing Brian Elliott in the second period. Before Wednesday, the Flyers had been 5-0-1 against the Rangers since the start of the 2019-20 season, outscoring them 26-15.

The Rangers closed almost that entire gap in a single game. Elliott allowed five goals on 13 shots before the struggling Carter Hart was forced into duty.

They almost closed that gap in a single period. They scored seven times in the second alone.

The Rangers have scored six goals three other times this season, but never reached nine until Wednesday. Four of their goals came in a span of under seven minutes in the second period.

Hartford AHL coach Kris Knobloch, who was fired by the Flyers in 2019, was filling in as head coach while David Quinn and the entire coaching staff was on the Covid protocol list. Wednesday went about as well as he, or Quinn, could have hoped.

Zibanejad breaks out

The best trade deadline acquisition for the Rangers would be Mika Zinanejad figuring things out. That’s a cliché, of course, but this one is kind of true. A hat trick and six-point night on Wednesday is certainly a better sign than it’s been this season for the 27-year-old center.

His shorthanded breakaway goal in the second frame to make it a 6-0 contest was just his fourth goal of the season in 28 games, then he nabbed his second of the night later in the period on the power play. After 41 goals a year ago, that’s clearly not the kind of output they’re expecting from him.

He had two assists against the Bruins earlier in the week when the Rangers had another impressive performance against a projected-top team. It took him until February 20 to score his second goal, and he nabbed his third 10 days ago against the Penguins.

That gap isn’t stunning, but three goals in one game to double his output is something to build on. His six-point second period tied an NHL record, too. A natural hat trick with goals even strength, on the power play, and short handed has to be like an NHL scoring cycle or something.

Maybe Zibanejad is back.

Panarin solid, too

Boy, the Rangers missed this guy, eh? Panarin looked solid in his third game back from his leave of absence, but he had points in all three of them, starting with an assists against the Bruins before a three-point night vs the Flyers on Monday.

Zibanejad was the story so it’s easy to overlook Panarin had a solid outing as well. But the Rangers have to be thrilled to have their top forward producing after time away.

Especially as Vitali Kaptsov acclimates into the lineup at some point this month, the Rangers have a lot of questions to answer of how they want to line up offensively. Panarin was never at risk of being replaced in the lineup, but it’s good for them to know where things are at all around.

All in all, a banger night for the Rangers offense and everyone has to feel pretty good about it, especially given the circumstances with their regular coaches not available. Any NHL team will take a touchdown and a safety on the way to a shutout victory, especially when last season’s breakout scorer breaks out again.

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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