Mika Zibanejad, Rangers aim to ground Flyers again

·3-min read
NHL: New York Rangers at Washington Capitals

Not that long ago, Mika Zibanejad was struggling to score.

How quickly things can change in less than a month.

Zibanejad has recorded back-to-back six-point performances against the Philadelphia Flyers -- collecting three goals and three assists in each game -- to give him 26 points this season.

He will look to continue his torrid scoring pace on Saturday afternoon when the New York Rangers visit the Flyers.

Zibanejad had two goals and four assists heading into March. Now, he has already compiled 10 goals and 16 assists. Zibanejad became the first player in NHL history to record six or more points in consecutive games played against one opponent within a regular season.

What a turnaround.

"I don't know if self-doubt is the right (thought) but definitely it was a struggle for me to get the puck in the net," Zibanejad said. "But I tried to stick by the work and trust myself that it was going to come. Obviously now it's really been going for me, and the whole team as well. You try to take it one game at a time, especially when things are not going well, but even more so now when the puck is going in.

"I'm just trying to keep level-headed and keep working."

The Rangers have outscored the Flyers 17-3 in the last two meetings and will suddenly be searching for their fourth win in a row.

"We were getting chances early in the year but not capitalizing," said Adam Fox, who tied a franchise record for defensemen with a career-high five assists on Thursday.

"Now we're finding some goals, and getting goals helps guys' confidence and creates more chances."

The Flyers, meanwhile, have been careening in the opposite direction and will hope to avoid a fifth consecutive loss.

Philadelphia has sunk to 4-9-1 in March while allowing 65 goals. Goaltenders Carter Hart and Brian Elliott have struggled immensely, and so has the defense as a whole. Turnovers, mistakes in their own zone, communication breakdowns -- pretty much everything has gone wrong this month.

"This team has really lost its identity from where we were at the beginning of the year to where we are now," said Shayne Gostisbehere, who had two assists Thursday. "We have to find something now. We're too good of a team to let it squander away. It's unacceptable."

The Flyers were blitzed 9-0 by the Rangers on March 17. On Thursday, the Flyers fell behind 6-0 before mounting a mini-comeback in the five-goal loss.

Despite the bleak numbers, they're not giving up.

"We're going to get back to work," Philadelphia head coach Alain Vigneault said. "We're going to work our way through this."

Hart has given up 77 goals, the most in the league. Elliott hasn't been much better lately. To be fair, the defense in front has been extremely shaky.

The frustration continues to mount.

"It's just straight not good enough right now," Gostisbehere said. "We're letting guys just (bleeping) absolutely brat us up in front of the net, and it makes our goaltenders look like absolute (bleep). It's not fair. We've got to be better as a team, we've got to be better as a D core."

--Field Level Media