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GAME STORY: Oilers 7, Rangers 5

James Neal notched a hat trick in a 7-5 win for the Blue & Orange as the Oilers and New York Rangers brought out the fireworks on New Year's Eve

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - The only New Year's Eve fireworks of the night in Edmonton weren't just on the Legislature Grounds.

While those festivities went on, the Oilers and New York Rangers were putting on a show of their own in the last home game of the decade at Rogers Place.

The Oilers lit the fuse and launched themselves into 2020 with a 7-5 victory to accomplish a feat not seen by the club since 1985, and that's win on New Year's Eve.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Post-Game vs NYR 12.31.19





The Oilers begin a five-game road trip on Thursday in Buffalo. The game can be seen on Sportsnet West and heard on the Oilers Radio Network, including 630 CHED. Puck drop is 5:08 p.m. MT.


On that night, it was Wayne Gretzky netting a hat trick in a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Flash forward 34 years, and it was the Real Deal, not the Great One, bringing the hats to the ice.

"I was one year out of being a rookie in the league," Head Coach Dave Tippett laughed post-game. "That was a long time ago."

James Neal recorded goals No. 17, 18, and 19 to ring in '20, including the game's opening tally 11 seconds into the contest as part of a three-goal first period that was closed out by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' eighth goal of the season.

"I hope his streak continues," Tippett said. "He's at 19 goals, and if you would've said at the start of the year he'd have 19 goals at the halfway mark, you'd probably like that. He's in a good place."

Leon Draisaitl's power-play marker to begin the second frame might've been the best gift he could've received to end 2019.

Despite sitting second in NHL scoring behind his teammate Connor McDavid, the German had been 'honest' in the assessment of his own game after posting a -20 plus/minus since November 16.

Neal wired a one-timer off the feed from McDavid for his second hat trick for the Blue & Orange on another Oilers man advantage just 12 seconds later after going 11-straight games on home ice without a single goal, let alone three.

"Goals come in waves," Neal said. "It's happened a lot of times in my career over courses of different things, and it felt good tonight."

When it's going your way, it's going your way. That was just the case when Josh Archibald slid his third of the season five-hole past an under-siege Alexander Georgiev, who yielded six goals on 24 shots before giving way to Henrik Lundqvist. 

But it wouldn't be that easy.

Video: Neal scores hat trick as Oilers stave off Rangers

The Rangers had one back from Chris Kreider with 26 seconds on the clock in the second period before the floodgates opened in the final frame with four-straight goals from the visitors that had them within one late.

"We got a little bit passive in the third, but they have some high-end skill that will make you pay if you sit back too much," Nugent-Hopkins, who recorded a goal and three assists, said.

The New Year's festivities wouldn't be spoiled, however, when one of two Oilers call-ups on Sunday in Kailer Yamamoto buried into the open cage on a breakaway to seal a 7-5 fireworks display between the Oilers and Rangers.

"Obviously our minds wandered and we kind of got ahead of ourselves in the third," Neal said. "It's just a fast league and that's what happens sometimes. We weren't playing and they were mad, and they came out and scored a bunch of goals."

Video: POST-GAME RAW | Coach Tippett 12.31.19

Players and coaches reset with three-straight days off and plenty of practice time in between, which was welcomed as tonight's game finished a busy stretch of 28 games in 61 days in November and December for the Oilers.

"I just think after the last few days, coming back from break and the way the Calgary game went, needed to regroup and address a bunch of different things that we kind of let slide," Neal said. "We'll refocus, and moving forward we have a great road trip to start off the New Year.

"We want to have the same start to the new year as we did to the start of the season. Take the two points, take the positives, and we'll go."

Cheers to new beginnings, Oil Country, and a Happy New Year.

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