EDMONTON -- When Brendan Lemieux became a Blueshirt, he called it "a dream come true" to be playing his hockey in New York. Playing his hockey for New York in Edmonton may be the best of both worlds.
Lemieux is still a rookie with not a ton of NHL hockey on his resume, but what he has done in his brief experience playing against the Oilers here should go in the bold type. Lemieux scored for the third time in his two career games in Edmonton, this time as part of a Gordie Howe hat trick - and his goal sparked a Ranger comeback that, once again, took a game to extra time before the Blueshirts fell, 3-2 in OT to the Oilers in the opener of a four-game road trip.
Lemieux dropped his mitts with Jujhar Khaira 4:31 into the second period, put the Rangers on the board seven minutes after that, and set up Brett Howden for the game-tying goal 1:33 into the third. It was his fourth career multipoint game, second in the last three games, and over his 11:53 of ice time it played an enormous role in earning the Rangers a point for the sixth time in their last eight games.
For all he did on the night, it was that last part that Lemieux was most concerned with.
"I've said it before, I think we're more worried about results. It's cool, but it sucks to lose," said Lemieux, whose goal and assist give him multiple points in back-to-back road games. "But we came back, played a good second and third. We're a resilient group, so I'm pretty happy with the effort all around, you just kind of get a bad taste in your mouth."
The Rangers needed not only their comeback but a frantic penalty kill with under three minutes remaining to solidify their point in this one. But then, once you reach the 3-on-3 portion of the program, and two of the opponent's three are Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, every moment has the potential for fireworks: The bang-bang play between those two that ended it came 35 seconds into this overtime, and lifted the hosts to their fifth win in six games.
Video: NYR@EDM: Georgiev makes two saves on Cave
Alexandar Georgiev had kept the Oilers out for more than 52 straight minutes prior to that, finishing with 30 saves - six of them on Darnell Nurse, including a dandy even earlier in overtime - and giving the Rangers all they could ask for, which was a chance to leave behind a sluggish first period and, true to character, climb their way back into a game.
"Very proud of our effort, the way we came back after the start we had," said Brady Skjei, after the Rangers overcame a 2-0 deficit to earn points for the second time in three nights. "Good to see out of this group - we battled back, we've definitely proven we can do that over this year. Obviously a bummer not getting that second point, but the way we battled back says a lot about our character in this locker room."
"Our attention to detail - we were closing quicker, we were more physical," Lemieux said. "We just played a better game, second and third. We had better effort and we got rewarded for it. We've got a pretty good hockey team in here - our record doesn't really show how good we are."
McDavid opened the scoring early off an assist from Draisaitl, who had a hand in each Oiler goal and stretched his point streak to 14 games, the league's longest active streak. The German winger finished with a goal and two assists, and has 23 points over his 14-game streak. The winner was his 42nd goal of the season, second in the league to Alex Ovechkin.
But the Rangers managed to get a lid on him and McDavid following a fast start for the home side. McDavid scored his 34th goal seven seconds into an Oiler power play, rifling a glove-side wrister 6:08 into the game, and Matt Benning doubled the Oiler lead with a blue-line shot 1:54 later.
Benning's goal initially had been waved off, a call that was reversed on an Edmonton challenge, and at the time Georgiev couldn't believe it had been ruled a goal. Just as Benning was winding up, Zack Kassian and Freddy Claesson came together in front and made contact with the goaltender with their sticks, giving him no chance to play the shot. Upon review, officials apparently believed it was the stick of Claesson that had caused the bigger problem.
"That's unlucky. I was sure that it would be goalie interference, because I got hit pretty hard," Georgiev said. "You can't let it affect you. What happened already happened, and we still have 50 minutes to play, at least."
Video: NYR@EDM: Lemieux beats Koskinen with quick shot
And the rookie bounced back beautifully. In the second, just moments after he made a pair of doorstep stops on Colby Cave, Kevin Shattenkirk carried it the other way, gained the line and dished for Lemieux on the right. From his off wing, Lemieux - who was only a couple minutes out of the box following his scrap with Khaira - opened up and swept a wrister along the ice that slithered under Koskinen's right pad.
"He plays with passion and he's helped us from Day 1, and any time that happens it can ignite your team," David Quinn said, referring to Lemieux's fight. "I thought we were playing well leading into that anyway, so then to have him come back and get the goal was fitting."
On the second shift of the third, Lemieux backed in the defense and created the space into which Howden hopped on a loose puck to chop home the equalizer. It was Howden's first goal since Nov. 12; in the interim, the rookie centerman had been sidelined for a month with a sprained knee. When he scored it, Howden threw his head back and his arms wide and looked like a player who could've used it.
Video: NYR@EDM: Howden swoops in and buries loose puck
"Ya think?" Quinn said. "It was real nice to see him get one. I thought he had a real nice game against Jersey (on Saturday). … I'm real happy for him - and he almost got another one. So hopefully this is a sign of things to come."
Howden and the Rangers have three more games on this trip to find out, continuing on Wednesday night in Vancouver, on the heels of yet another one-goal game - their 38th of the season, most in the NHL.
"We battled hard to get back into the game," Georgiev said. "Played good defense, made a lot of scoring chances on their net. It was a tight game. Everyone battled."