NEW YORK — Not much has gone right for the Edmonton Oilers and Nail Yakupov in a season where much was expected.
The first pick in the 2012 draft showed a glimpse Thursday night of why there was optimism in Edmonton before the season.
Yakupov scored with 1:38 left in regulation to give the Oilers to a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers.
Ryan Smyth also scored for Edmonton, which is 5-5 in its last 10. Ben Scrivens made 35 saves.
“Finally we get rewarded,” Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said.
New York’s season-high four-game winning streak came to an end. Derick Brassard scored and Cam Talbot made 29 saves.
“I don’t think it was consistent enough,” Rangers right wing Ryan Callahan said of his team’s play. “We need to have more of a consistent 60 minutes to get the win.
“I don’t think we were getting pucks deep quite enough. They’re a good transition team with a lot of speed. We were a little sloppy through the neutral zone and when you do that against a team like that it will cost you.”
New York’s sloppiness came at a most opportune time for the Oilers. Yakupov one-timed a feed from Sam Gagner past Talbot for the game-winning goal.
“It was a good play by our guys down low to protect the puck,” Yakupov said. “A great change by (Jordan Eberle). All I had to do was find space in the middle because I saw the two guys behind. I just had to find a spot. I think that was our top game this season. We need to do it to have a good time before the break.”
Yakupov’s goal, his 11th of the season, broke a tie that carried over from the second period. After Smyth opened the scoring 2:56 into the game by shoving a rebound of David Perrron’s shot past Talbot, Brassard drew the Rangers even at 1-1 with a slap shot that beat Scrivens 22 seconds into the second period.
Brassard’s goal was his 11th of the season, and it was created by Benoit Pouliot intercepting Eberle’s pass in the Edmonton defensive zone. Pouliot whipped a pass from along the left wing boards to Mats Zuccarello, who found Brassard in the right circle.
“All three of us try to work hard (and) play a simple game,” Zuccarello said. “It doesn’t matter when you lose. It’s really disappointing because I thought we had a lot of chances to close out the game.”
But the Rangers, who finished with more shots on goal (36-31) and more shot attempts (65-51), could not find a way to solve Scrivens.
“He was good,” Rangers defenceman Marc Staal said. “We didn’t have a lot of secondary chances, missed some good shots. I think you (have) to get in front of a guy like that. He’s playing well and I don’t think we had enough traffic, causing rebounds and scrambles.”
Edmonton appeared to take a 2-1 lead on a power play midway through the second, but what would have been a goal by Gagner was waived off by the officiating crew of Dan O’Halloran and Chris Lee. Their ruling was upheld by replay review.
“(A shot) hit me right in the collarbone and ended up under my jersey,” Talbot said. “It just fell down my back and the whistle had already blown.”