Rangers’ slumping star reacts to his overtime gaff that sunk Game 4: ‘I can’t change it now’

May 26, 2024; Sunrise, Florida, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) looks on against the Florida Panthers during the second period in game three of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers find themselves in an even series after dropping Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night. Despite a strong first period, the Rangers were outplayed for the majority of the game, resulting in their second loss of the series.

With the series tied 2–2 heading back to Madison Square Garden, much attention has been paid to the Blueshirts’ first line which has been overwhelmingly unproductive. Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, in particular, have struggled to produce in this series. The problems compounded on Tuesday night when Zibanejad made a costly mistake in the overtime period that resulted in the Panthers gaining their game-winning scoring chance.

Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad reacts to costly overtime mistake

May 28, 2024; Sunrise, Florida, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) and Florida Panthers center Sam Reinhart (13) battle for the puck during the third period in game four of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
May 28, 2024; Sunrise, Florida, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) and Florida Panthers center Sam Reinhart (13) battle for the puck during the third period in game four of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

In the opening minutes of overtime, the Rangers surrendered a goal that secured the win for the Panthers on a powerplay. Zibanejad has received the majority of the blame for this goal surrendered as he carelessly tossed the puck away on an attempted pass to Blake Wheeler. After the puck was stolen away, Wheeler resultingly committed a penalty in an effort to save a goal, leading to a converted Panthers powerplay and victory.

Zibanejad spoke to the media following the game, reacting to his lackluster performance and attempting to provide an explanation for his overtime gaff:

“It’s making decisions,” Zibanejad said per ESPN. “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.”

Zibanejad has been a ghost in the Eastern Conference Finals

May 16, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) looks on efore the game against the Carolina Hurricanes in game six of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
May 16, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) looks on efore the game against the Carolina Hurricanes in game six of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Through four games, Zibanejad is pointless in the Eastern Conference Finals. He’s posted a -3 rating and has 13 shots on goal while averaging 22:40 time on ice per game. This postseason, Zibanejad has totaled 14 points and 14 giveaways.

According to Vince Mercogliano of Lohud, the Rangers were out-attempted, 21-5, with scoring chances at 11-2 in the Panthers’ favor with Kreider and Zibanejad on the ice in Game 4.

The Rangers’ faith now hangs in the balance of what has essentially become a best-of-three series to close out the Eastern Conference Finals. New York has home-ice advantage, but it won’t mean much if their stars don’t step up.

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