Edmonton Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens, right, stops a shot on-goal by New York Rangers’ Ryan Callahan during the second period of an NHL game in New York on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014.
Photograph by: Frank Franklin II, AP
NEW YORK — For weeks, if not months, Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins had wished, hoped, cajoled, instructed and pleaded with his gifted young team not to panic, not to play scared, to find a comfort zone playing in tight games and just persevere.
On Thursday night, at least, the lesson took hold as the Oilers hung on in a one-goal nail-biter from start to finish. , which they executed with a flourish as Nail Yakupov hammered home a slap shot at 18:22 of the third period to lift Edmonton to a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers.
In the process, the Oilers snapped the Rangers’ winning streak at four games and extended their own pre-Olympic run to five wins in their last six games.
Yakupov, set up in the high slot, pounded Sam Gagner’s no-look centring pass past Rangers goalie Cam Talbot at 18:22 of the third period, leaving the announced crowd of 18,006 (a sellout) in stunned silence.
“Yak was finding spots all night to shoot, that’s what we told him before the game, just try and get open,” said Hall, who dug the puck out along the boards behind the Ranger net and slid it to Gagner, the subject of persistent trade rumours,of late,a little further along the end wall. “He’s got such a great shot that when he does get open, he’s got to let it go and one was bound to go in.”
As he has almost since he joined the Oilers on Jan. 16 in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings, goalie Ben Scrivens had much to do with providing a comfort zone for his teammates, stopping 35 shots, including a cluster of 10-bell saves to keep his team in the game. The Garden, apparently, is his stage.
On Nov. 17, Scrivens fashioned a 37-save, 1-0 shutout over the Rangers while playing for the Los Angeles Kings and this was his a Scrivens encore, evidently.
He had to be brilliant a number of times on Thursday night, as well, particularly on a Ryan Callahan breakaway during an Oilers second-period power play.
“It’s a great building, a lot of history here,” Scrivens said. “It’s fun to have the privilege of strapping them on and playing and competing in front of a great crowd.”
Scrivens lauded his defence for doing a good job of keeping shots to the perimeter, for the most part, “all that cliché stuff that’s boring that you have to write about. But we really did play a good game.”
His save on Callahan was anything but boring, though. The Rangers captain streaked in all alone on Scrivens after a turnover during the game’s only power play, which went to the Oilers after Rangers winger Daniel Carcillo was whistled for tripping. He’s a good player,” Scrivens said. “He pump-faked a little, you had to be wary of the shot and try to bite enough that you could make that save if he does follow through, but keep enough momentum, keep the ability to move, just in case he did.
“I was fortunate to get a toe on it,” Scrivens said. “He’s a good player and I’m fortunate to come out on the right end of that one.” Scrivens had to spread eagle to just get his left skate on the shot, as Callaghan faked the shot and tried to tuck it in the side.
Ryan Smyth, with his eighth goal of the season and 384th of his 20-year NHL career, had opened the scoring for Edmonton at 2:56 of the first period. It was a tap-in for the 37-year-old veteran after David Perron’s shot caromed off a skate and up in the air, out of Talbot’s field of vision.
That goal held up until 22 seconds into the second, when the Rangers converted a turnover in the Edmonton zone, as Mats Zuccarello fed a cross-ice pass to an uncovered Derick Brassard, who buried a one-timer Scrivens had no chance on. The Oilers kept those gaffes to a minimum on Thursday night.
“I thought we settled in,” Eakins said. “You never want to start a period that way, giving up a goal. But we didn’t panic, which was good with me. I was actually quite glad that it was tied 1-1 going into the third period. It’s one of those things you want your team to experience, to settle into that 1-1 game. Finally, we get rewarded.”
The Oilers might have had a 2-1 lead entering the third after Smyth banged the rebound of a Jordan Eberle wrist shot through Talbot’s pads. The puck leaked through and into the net all right, but referee Dan O’Halloran had lost sight of it and blown his whistle. No goal.
Yakupov’s game-winner was his 11th this season and a prototypical effort by the young Russian sniper, who was united with Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, No. 1 overall draft picks all, to start the game.
“You’ve got to trust your linemates, Nuge (Nugent-Hopkins) and Hallsy because they have speed and pretty good (skill) in the corners,” Yakupov said. “They can protect the puck and when they beat the guy in the corner, you’ve just got to find a space.”
“Not just me, but somebody (anybody) has to be in the middle for a shot.”
The Oilers won’t have long to savour the victory. They conclude their four-game road trip Friday in New Jersey against the Devils, before dispersing for the two-week NHL hiatus during the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Obviously, they have a chance to head into the break on a high note.
“We’ve won five of our last six and that’s great,” Hall said. “We just want to keep winning.
“It’s fun to win, it’s fun to beat teams, go into other teams buildings and ruin their party and play like we want to. So we’ve got to keep doing that.”
NOTES: The game was the 6,000th regular-season game in Rangers history. The first game in Rangers history was a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Maroons, with Bill (Bun) Cook, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, scoring the game’s lone goal.
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