NEW YORK - The talk of Artemi Panarin as a Hart Trophy candidate has been picking up lately, and deservedly so.
But if you've been following the Rangers all season — especially in the last couple months — it's been clear that this team is benefiting from the presence of two star forwards.
Mika Zibanejad does everything for the Rangers. He kills penalties, he plays defense, he wins face-offs, and most noticeably in the last few weeks, he scores a lot of goals.
Despite missing a month with an upper-body injury in November, the 26-year-old center leads the team with 39 goals in 54 games played.
Five — yes, five! — of those goals came in Thursday's 6-5 overtime win at Madison Square Garden over the Washington Capitals, including two go-ahead goals in the third period and the overtime winner.
Each of the two third-period goals was followed by a goal from Alex Ovechkin, who tied the score at 5 with the Rangers 43 seconds away from a regulation win.
Zibanejad has been especially hot of late, scoring 20 goals in 19 games since the all-star break.
The win halted the Rangers' losing streak at three games. They had won nine out of 10 prior to that to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Three straight losses set them back, but the teams in front of them have also been struggling. The Rangers (36-27-4) entered Thursday sitting four points behind the rival Islanders — who were playing in Ottawa against the Senators — for the final wild card spot.
How it went down
The Capitals struck first when former Ranger Carl Hagelin netted a short-side goal at the 7:05 mark in the first period, but Zibanejad had a prompt response for New York.
Zibanejad's first goal came less than two minutes after Hagelin's when he tipped in a slap shot from Artemi Panarin. It was his 14th power-play goal of the season, which ranks third in the NHL.
He added his second goal 5:29 into the second period, launching a one-timer from the top of the left circle off a pass from Adam Fox.
That gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead, but the period ended with a flurry of activity.
Ilya Kovalchuk tied it at 2 at the 12:01 mark, but Tony DeAngelo seized the lead right back on Panarin's 60th assist of the season.
That lasted only 16 seconds before Michal Kempny netted a one-timer to knot the score again, this time at 3-3.
That didn't last too long, either, with Zibanejad completing the hat trick to begin the third period. Pavel Buchnevich had his second assist of the game on the play, improving his points total for the season to 42.
Ovechkin tied the score at 4 with 10:38 to play, then Zibanejad appeared to seal the win with less than two minutes remaining.