Rookie Nail Yakupov scored the game-winner for Edmonton. Credit: Getty Images
The Rangers did not want to celebrate the 6,000th regular season game in franchise history this way.
The team dropped a 2-1 decision to the Western Conferece-worst Oilers in a match Thursday night at the Garden.
"We just weren't as sharp [as needed]," Brad Richards said. "We have to do a better job."
Even though the Rangers finished with advantages in shots on goal (36-31) and attempted shots (65-51), most came off the rush and were relatively easy stops for Ben Scrivens (35 saves).
"He was good," 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. He played [well] but I don't think we did enough consistently to score more [than one goal]."
While Scrivens was putting on a show, Cam Talbot attempted to match the Edmonton netminder save for save.
As good as Talbot and Scrivens were, neither were impregnable. Ryan Smyth gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead 2:56 into the first period with his eighth of the season. Edmonton's lead lasted until Derick Brassard scored 22 seconds into the second period.
The game remained tied after Brassard's goal until Nail Yakupov ripped a slapshot from the slot with 1:38 left in regulation.
On the play to set up Yakupov's game-winner, the Oilers forecheck would not allow the Rangers to leave the defensive zone and Sam Gagner found the 2012 first-overall pick with a no-look pass from along the goal line for the one-timer.
"The winning goal was five guys on the ice getting beat to loose pucks and [the Oilers] protecting the puck and finding an open man all alone in the slot," head coach Alain Vigneault said. "We were trying to block the shot and it goes off our stick and in. There were five puck battles and we lost them and it ends up in the back of our net."
There is no time for the loss to marinate as the Rangers meet the Eastern Confernce-leading Penguins Friday night in Pittsburgh for their last game before the two-week Olympic break. The Rangers will send seven players to Sochi: Rick Nash (Canada), Carl Hagelin and Henrik Lundqvist (Sweden), Mats Zuccarello (Norway) and Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan (United States).
"It's a big game," Staal said of the game in Pittsburgh. "They are a good team and we have to move by this and learn from it. We have to be better and try to get a win."
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter@DenisGorman.