Rangers center Mika Zibanejad skates to the team bench after...

Rangers center Mika Zibanejad skates to the team bench after scoring against the Hurricanes in the first period of Game 1 of an NHL Stanley Cup second-round playoff series at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

It was vintage Mika Zibanejad. And it’s exactly what the Rangers need to get through the gantlet of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“He’s turned it up a notch in the playoffs here, for sure,” teammate Vincent Trocheck said.

Zibanejad scored twice in the first period on pinpoint feeds, assisted on another goal in the first 20 minutes and made a key defensive play with the Rangers clinging to a one-goal lead late in regulation as he kept the puck away from Sebastian Aho. His effort helped the Rangers open their second-round series with a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

“Mika obviously had a huge night,” coach Peter Laviolette said.

Zibanejad, who had a goal and six assists in the Rangers’ four-game sweep of the Capitals in the first round and now has four straight multi-point outings, might have had a hat trick in the opening 20 minutes if he had, in his own words, made a better decision. He decided to pass the puck backward instead of taking an open shot in front of the net.

But in all, the top-line center who needs to be the team’s top-end scorer had two goals and an assist on two shots in the first 16:13. It paced an overall excellent effort for the top-six forwards, with linemate Chris Kreider adding two assists, Trocheck notching a power-play goal and an assist and Artemi Panarin scoring at 8:21 of the third period to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead.

“It’s easier to sit here and talk about it after a win, but yeah, as an offensive guy, you want to get involved,” Zibanejad said. “When you score and you’re able to contribute to a win and help your team, that’s a good feeling. It’s one game and we’ve got to keep going.”

It’s been the consistency, particularly skating five-on-five, that often eluded Zibanejad this season.

He finished with 26 goals and 46 assists in 81 games, down from the 39 goals and career-high 91 points he produced last season. But 12 of his goals and 31 of his 72 points this season came on the power play.

That is why his opening goal at 2:46 of the first period was so good to see. Jack Roslovic did the heavy lifting, carrying the puck behind the Hurricanes’ crease as Zibanejad was able to slip free against Jordan Staal’s tight-checking line and get open in the low slot to bury the feed.

Zibanejad then made it 2-1 on the power play at 10:05 as he swept to the far post to take Kreider’s backhanded feed from the right post, giving stretching goalie Frederik Andersen no chance to make a stop.

“Every team that plays wants to have a good start,” Zibanejad said. “I thought we really wanted to have a good start, especially at home, Game 1, we’ve been off for a few days. When we were able to score on our chances early on and get a little momentum, that was good.”

A Hurricanes turnover deep in their zone gave Zibanejad the puck all alone at the crease with just over a minute left in the first period. But Zibanejad, who got the puck on his forehand, backhanded a pass to Panarin, who couldn’t get off a shot.

“The puck was bouncing a little bit,” Zibanejad said. “I made the decision to try and get the goalie to freeze. I saw Bread [Panarin]. I don’t think he thought I was going to pass it to him. You could probably say I should have shot. I don’t care. This wasn’t my greatest decision if you look at it.”

Kreider chided the question by chiming in sarcastically, “You scored two; can you talk about the one you passed up?”

All in good fun, especially when Zibanejad plays like that in a Rangers win.

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