The New York Rangers only led Thursday night’s game with the Edmonton Oilers for 81 seconds. Fortunately for they and the Madison Square Garden faithful, it was the final 81 seconds of the game.
Rick Nash scored the game winning goal with 1:21 remaining in regulation time, and Kevin Hayes tallied three points, and the Rangers defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 at Madison Square Garden in former Ranger goalie Cam Talbot’s first career start against the Blueshirts. It’s the Rangers’ (8-3-0) third win in a row, and they improved to 6-1-0 in their past seven games. The Rangers also improved to 7-1-0 at the Garden this season.
It was one of the hardest fought games of the young year, as the Rangers took on the Oilers, the current Western Conference leaders. Edmonton got things started with their special teams, first killing off an Adam Larsson penalty before capitalizing on Jesper Fast’s high sticking call, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins during the double minor penalty, his first goal of the season. Just under two minutes later, Kevin Hayes tallied a goal of his own, his fourth on the year to knot it up before the first intermisson.
Another even period went down in the second, as Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrick Maroon stifled Dan Girardi to create a 2-on-0 scenario, ending with Maroon putting in his third goal of the season. Before the period let out, the Rangers again struck even, with Michael Grabner taking over a share of the team lead in goals. Grabner had assisted on Hayes’s goal, and Hayes returned the favor on the second equalizer.
Edmonton again took the lead, scoring midway through the third period as Larsson, the former New Jersey Devil, terrorized his former Metropolitan rivals with a goal just as hooking penalty to Hayes was expiring. But the Rangers again knotted things up, this time letting just 42 seconds pass before Fast tipped in a Brandon Pirri shot in the net for a 3-3 score. The play was made possible by Brady Skjei, who kept the puck in the Oilers zone for his second assist on the evening, also assisting on the Grabner goal.
This time, the Rangers weren’t interested in another even period.
In the penultimate minute, Nash wanted a share of team lead in goals for himself, and put one in past former teammate Talbot for this sixth goal of the year, the eventual game winner. With Talbot pulled on the ensuing shift, JT Miller, another helper on Grabner’s goal, put in an extraordinarily open netter that originated from beyond his own blue line. It was Miller’s 12th point of the year, leaving him alone in the team lead, and the Rangers took home a 5-3 victory.
It was a gritty performance from the Rangers, who wound up outshooting Edmonton 19-5 over the game’s final 26 minutes, good for a 31-24 advantage overall. Talbot made 26 stops in his first venture against the Rangers, while his former teammate Henrik Lundqvist stopped 24. Another part of the Rangers’ 2013-14 Eastern Conference champion team, Benoit Pouliot, also played, tallying one shot on net. The Rangers also held young sensation Connor McDavid to one assist and a plus/minus of -3. While Ryan McDonagh‘s assist streak ended at eight games, Skjei and Nick Holden picked up the assist load on defense, tallying two each.
The teams will meet once more nine days from now in Alberta, which will be the Rangers’ first ever visit to Rogers Place, the Oilers’ (7-3-1) new state of the art arena. The Oilers are now 0-2-1 in their last three after a 7-1-0 start.
The Rangers return to action with a pair of weekend games, the first being on Saturday against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden (7:00, MSG).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490