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Nash, Rangers end Oilers' six-game winning streak

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- Timely goals, timely saves and effective special teams were the key ingredients to the New York Rangers' success earlier this season. They rediscovered some of that in a 4-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

Rick Nash scored the game-winning goal on the power play late in the second period, the Rangers killed three penalties within the first 8:46 of the third period, and they got contributions from rookie defensemen Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei to end a three-game losing streak.

New York (19-9-4) is 3-6-2 in its past 11 games after going 13-1-2 from Oct. 18-Nov. 23.

"It's so much about focus, making good reads and good decisions with the puck," said goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made 18 saves. "When it's there, when we play on top of our game and have that focus, I think we're a really strong team. But that's the toughest part, to be there all the time. We have to push each other to get to that level, to be consistent, to have that focus every night, because that's when we have the most success."

In addition to Nash, the Rangers got goals from forwards Mats Zuccarello and Jesper Fast as well as McIlrath, whose first NHL goal gave New York a 2-1 lead at 7:54 of the second period. Keith Yandle had two assists; Zuccarello and Nash each added an assist.

The Oilers (14-16-2), whose six-game winning streak ended, got second-period goals from Taylor Hall on the power play and Jordan Eberle on a breakaway. Goalie Anders Nilsson made 17 saves.

"It doesn't matter if you win two or three in a row, or lost five or six in a row, every loss stings, it hurts," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "You begin to think right away, individually, 'What could I have done better as a player, as a coach?' Collectively, you begin to think that, so it's not a good feeling. It's the way it should be in our locker room."

The Oilers had their chances to recover after Nash's power-play goal at 19:21 of the second period gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead. His goal came 61 seconds after Eberle scored on a breakaway to tie the game at 2-2.

The Rangers, though, held the lead despite the Oilers having three power-play chances in the first 8:46 of the third period.

Defenseman Marc Staal was called for slashing at 2:40 and high sticking at 5:03, putting one of New York's most effective penalty-killers in the box for the first two kills.

McIlrath and Skjei, who was making his NHL debut after being called up from Hartford of the American Hockey League earlier in the day, were thrust into prominent roles on the PK and didn't look out of place. Skjei even had two takeaways on the Oilers' second power play.

"Yeah, get their feet wet early, put the pressure on them," Staal joked. "They were good. We didn't give them any time."

It was even more impressive for Skjei because it was his turnover that led to Eberle's game-tying goal at 18:20 of the second period. He didn't let it affect the rest of his game.

"Any player that expects to play in this League and become a regular is going to go through that, and a play like that can't affect you," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "You've just got to have a short memory, move on and think about the next play coming up."

Forward J.T. Miller went to the box for high sticking at 8:46 of the third period, but New York's sixth-ranked penalty kill did the job again.

All told, the Oilers had two shots on goal in the six minutes of power-play time.

It was a dramatically different look from the Rangers' penalty kill in the third period than in the second, when Hall had lots of time and plenty of space after receiving the puck from center Leon Draisaitl on the left side. He beat Lundqvist at 5:12 to tie the game at 1-1.

"We kept them on the run a little bit more," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said of the improvement on the penalty-kill. "That first one they scored on we let them have eyes up and make some good passes, find some guys with some space. If you give a guy like Hall a look like that he's going to capitalize. We tried to be closer to him with his shot and I think everybody was good on their reads in the third period of when to jump, when to stay aggressive. We had a good gap at the blue line and made them dump it."

The Oilers, naturally, lamented the missed opportunities.

"We just didn't score and that's what we need to do," Eberle said. "Down by one…and you get six minutes of power-play time, you need to score goals.

"It was there for us."

The other positive for the Rangers was their puck control, particularly through the neutral zone.

They were careless with the puck and turnover prone in their previous two games, at the Oilers last Friday and at the Calgary Flames on Saturday. It led to some lopsided goals-against numbers (seven in Edmonton, five in Calgary).

The Rangers cleaned up a lot of that Tuesday, mainly by dumping the puck into the zone and forechecking to get it back.

"We didn't turn it over in the neutral zone at all," Staal said. "We were playing quick and making their 'D' turn. Our forwards were doing a great job of turning them over. We did a good job all night of staying on them, harassing them, not giving their skilled players some room."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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