NEWARK — It was cold outside, but inside, Mika Zibanejad was red-hot.
The Rangers’ No. 1 center recorded his second career hat trick — the third goal of which was a nifty dipsy-doodle move around defenders for the winner with 4:36 left in the third period — as the Blueshirts rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Devils on Thursday night.
Zibanejad has scored the winning goal in each of the Rangers’ last four victories and has scored eight goals in the last five games. He also assisted on Chris Kreider’s third-period goal and posted his fourth four-point game of the season (he has five of those in his career). He is the first Ranger to have four four-point games in a season since Jaromir Jagr in 2005-06.
Zibanejad has 20 goals and 28 assists for a team-leading 48 points in 50 games. The Rangers have won four of their last five games and five of seven.
“I keep thinking back to early in the season when I thought he was playing real well and he wasn’t getting rewarded statistically, and he and I had a couple of conversations regarding that, and we talked about how goals come, they come in flurries,’’ coach David Quinn said. “And they’re coming at a snowstorm rate right now for him.’’
But it isn’t only Zibanejad who’s hot right now for the Rangers. It’s his entire line, with Kreider and Mats Zuccarello. Zuccarello, who missed Tuesday’s game with a swollen heel, had three assists, including the one that set up Zibanejad’s winner.
“We’re trying to use each other out there as much as possible,’’ Zibanejad said of himself and his linemates. “We’re trying to use the things we’re good at and trying to implement that to our game. I don’t know — it’s just clicking for us right now, and it’s good to see Zucc back, and we’re super-happy, obviously.”
Facing the Devils for the first time this season, the Rangers fell behind 2-0 before Zibanejad’s first two goals, both on the power play, tied the score.
They took the lead for the first time on Kreider’s 23rd goal, a wrist shot from below the right wing faceoff dot that put them up 3-2 at 4:43 of the third period. On the next shift, though, Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey gave the puck away in his own zone, and a few passes later, Devils defenseman Egor Yakovlev tied it at 3 at 5:36.
And so it was left to Zibanejad to be the hero for the Blueshirts. He took Zuccarello’s pass from the left corner and weaved his way down the slot before slipping a shot from the doorstep past Long Island native Keith Kinkaid at 15:24.
Henrik Lundqvist then played his part, preserving the lead with a big save with 24.4 seconds left as the Rangers raised their record to 22-21-7. The Devils are 19-24-7.
Nico Hischer, at 5:10, and Marcus Johansson, at 16:18, scored power-play goals to give the Devils a 2-0 lead before Johansson got called for interference with 6.2 seconds left in the first period. Zibanejad won the faceoff back to Kevin Hayes and deflected Hayes’ right point shot past Kinkaid with 1.3 seconds left.
“Obviously, that goal at the end of the first period was huge,’’ Quinn said. “To get a power-play goal and to only come out of that period [trailing] 2-1 certainly maybe swung the tide for us.’’