NEW YORK, NY -
Nail Yakupov scored the game-winning goal with under two minutes to play and the Edmonton Oilers downed the New York Rangers, 2-1 at Madison Square Garden.
“I think that was our top game of this season,” Yakupov said. “I think we played good and (didn’t have) many turnovers and our goalie played an awesome game. No penalties today, which is good. We played 5-on-5 all the time and every guy on the team, they just battled for two points. We’ve got to do that because it’s a great time before the break I think. (We’ll try to) get the next points too.”
The Oilers got the scoring started less than three minutes into the game. David Perron took advantage of a turnover in the offensive zone and shot the puck high on Cam Talbot. The shot hit the goaltender and deflected high into the air before Ryan Smyth crashed backdoor and buried the loose puck at 2:56 of the first period.
The visitors would cling to that one-goal lead for the rest of the first period, but before the middle frame turned 30 seconds old, the Rangers would tie the game. 22 seconds into the second period, Derick Brassard connected on a one-timer from the face-off dot and tied the game at 1-1. Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot earned the assists.
With roughly nine minutes remaining in the second, the Oilers appeared to have scored what would have been the go-ahead goal as the puck trickled underneath Talbot and over the goal line. The official behind the net ruled it a ‘no goal’ after whistling play dead. Upon video review, the call stood and the score remained 1-1.
“It was one of those games where we had to scratch and claw for everything we got in it and it took until the 57th minute to really get what we wanted to do,” said Oilers top-line winger Taylor Hall. “Sometimes those games are a lot more fun than the 8-2 wins or the wins when you’re ahead right off the bat. We really had to battle for that one and I think everyone in the room feels good about it.”
Yakupov would put the Oilers up with 1:38 remaining in the third period to give his team their fifth win in six games. Hall battled for the puck behind Talbot and freed it to Sam Gagner in the corner. Gagner backhanded a pass to Yakupov in the slot and the young Russian connected on the one-timer.
“I just wanted to get in and get on the forecheck,” Hall said. “We want to be an aggressive team. We have so much speed upfront where we have to be as aggressive as possible to win pucks on the forecheck. I told Yak to just get open as much as you can tonight and let that shot go and sure enough, one goes in.”
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins liked the play of his top line of three former first overall picks in the win; Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov. He was especially happy with the play of Yakupov, who earned more ice time as the game wore on.
“I liked Nail,” said Eakins. “I liked that line. I thought they were working hard at it. I thought a few times, they were starting to get frustrated. I think the Rangers were pasted fairly closely to them all night but it was great to see Yak get that goal at the end of the game. I was able to run him up with some minutes tonight because he was going and going well and his two linemates supported him well.”
Ben Scrivens was again stellar in net for the Oilers, making 34 saves on 35 shots in the win. He has a .965 save percentage in his last four games, three of them being victories for the blue and orange.
“He was good,” Eakins said. “When we needed him, he was there and that’s the most important thing with your goaltender. He’s there to sometimes, bail you out but more importantly, give you a chance to win the game and again, he was real, real solid.”
“The D did a good job of keeping shots to the outside and all that cliche stuff that’s boring that guys have to write about,” Scrivens told the media. “But we really did play a good game. We’re going to have to keep doing that, right until the end of the season. It’s going to be ad nauseam until the cows come home. We’ve got to play that way. It’s not going to be, we’ve had a couple of games where we’ve played well. We need to do that right until the bitter end.”
The play of Scrivens and his counterpart, Ilya Bryzgalov, has inspired confidence in a roster that has begun to find a winning combination.
“We have a goalie back there, two goalies right now, that when ever we have a breakdown, they’re making saves and it’s a lot easier to play like that when you have some confidence that maybe if you don’t make this play, you’re goalie is going to have your back. That’s a great way to feel as a team,” Hall said.
Hall scored his 200th career NHL point with the assist on the game-winning goal and the Oilers continued their recent streak, hoping that trend holds fast Friday night in New Jersey.