Thursday night at Madison Square Garden the Rangers saw their season-high four-game winning streak snapped as Nail Yakupov scored late in the third period to lift the Edmonton Oilers past New York by the score of 2-1. The contest — the 6,000th regular season game in franchise history — was the Rangers last on home ice before the Olympic break which arrives this weekend after the Blueshirts skate against the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Friday night.
Stationed between the circles Yakupov hammered a one-timer past Cam Talbot for his 11th goal with just 1:38 remaining in regulation as Edmonton won for the fifth time in six games. Sam Gagner made the pass to set up Yakupov's goal after Taylor Hall won a battle for the puck behind the Rangers net.
Making his first start since a 5-3 loss to the Islanders on Jan. 21, Talbot allowed an early goal Thursday, but then settled in and played a very strong and efficient game in goal for the Rangers. Following in the footsteps of Henrik Lundqvist, who has allowed three goals in his last three starts and nine in his last seven, Talbot was impressive in stopping 29 of 31 shots. His point-blank save on Matt Hendricks with 8:35 to play in regulation was as clutch a stop as Talbot made all evening, keeping the score knotted at one apiece at the time.
At the other end of the ice Oilers netminder Ben Scrivens was also rock-solid between the pipes, finishing with 35 saves. Scrivens, who earlier this season shut out the Rangers 1-0 at The Garden while a member of the Los Angeles Kings, did his part in pushing this game towards overtime by denying Carl Hagelin on the doorstep with 7:27 left to play in regulation, one of many big stops he made in the third period with the score tied, on his way to First Star honors Thursday night.
After spotting the Oilers a 1-0 lead in a spotty first-period of play, the Rangers pulled even just 22 seconds into the middle stanza on Derick Brassard's 11th goal of the season. An aggressive Benoit Pouliot caused a turnover by the Oilers in their end of the ice and Mats Zuccarello corralled the loose puck before finding a wide-open Brassard to his right. Brassard made no mistake hammering the puck past a diving Scrivens to even the score, 1-1.
Both Brassard and Zuccarello extended their point-scoring streaks to five consecutive games, the longest of Brassard's Rangers career and the longest of Zuccarello's NHL career.
That goal offset one by Edmonton's Ryan Smyth just 2:56 into the contest. On the play Talbot made a shoulder save on David Perron's snap shot following a turnover by Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein, but the puck bounced up in the air and landed behind Talbot where Smyth tapped it over the goal line for his eighth goal of the season.
New York out-shot Edmonton 11-8 in the opening period, but struggled with Edmonton's aggressive forecheck and overall team speed. In the second period the Rangers seemed to find their footing and were able to move out of their own end a bit more easily. Both teams recorded 13 shots on goal during the second period.
The only penalty called all night came at 10:22 of the second period when Daniel Carcillo was whistled for slashing. During the ensuing Oilers power play both teams came close to scoring, though neither officially did. At 10:57 the Oilers pushed the puck out of Talbot's pads and into the cage, but only after the whistle had blown the play dead. Then 15 seconds later Ryan Callahan took off on a shorthanded breakaway for the Rangers, but Scrivens robbed him with a tremendous left pad save.
The Rangers game in Pittsburgh Friday night will be their last until Feb. 27 when they host the Chicago Blackhawks out of the Olympic break, in which seven Blueshirts will participate in the Sochi Olympic Games.