EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) �� Alexander Georgiev has his first NHL win under his belt.
The 22-year-old backup goalie made 35 saves and forward Mika Zibanejad had a goal and an assist as the resurgent New York Rangers held off the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Saturday night.
Georgiev, who began the season in the AHL after playing last year in Finland, entered 0-2-0 with a 3.05 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in his brief NHL career.
“It feels unreal, something like a dream. It is an amazing feeling and one I will remember for my whole life,” said Georgiev, the first Bulgarian-born player in the NHL. “The guys came out and wanted to win really bad. We had confidence from the last couple of games and brought it into this game.”
Chris Kreider and Paul Carey also scored for the Rangers (30-30-6), who swept a three-game road trip to Western Canada that followed their seven-game losing streak.
After trading away several veteran stars, including captain Ryan McDonagh and forward Rick Nash, leading up to Monday’s deadline, the rebuilding Rangers – tied for last place in the Metropolitan Division – are just three points out of a playoff spot in the crowded Eastern Conference race.
“We hung on there a little bit, but I really liked the way we played. We had good energy. That first goal gave us even more energy,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We played a strong first. We had some real good looks in the second. Obviously their top players are top-end players and they’re going to get some looks and we hung on there and our goalie made a couple of big saves.”
Georgiev made his third career start in place of No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist, rested on the second night of a back-to-back after two straight 50-save wins. With a 3-1 victory in Calgary on his 36th birthday Friday night, Lundqvist became the first goaltender to stop 50 or more shots in consecutive wins since the NHL began tracking saves in 1955.
Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored for the disappointing Oilers (27-34-4), who have lost three in a row.
New York opened the scoring 54 seconds into the game when Zibanejad fed the puck across to a streaking Kreider, who sent it into the open side of the net before goalie Cam Talbot could get across. It was the 13th time this season the Oilers have allowed a goal on their opponent’s first shot of the game.
“Unfortunately, that wasn’t the start we wanted,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “The second half of the game, we played a lot better. I think we kept things simple for the second half of the game and it started to work out for us.
“I think we’re just over-complicating it a little bit.”
Edmonton tied it six minutes into the second period when an innocent-looking shot from McDavid off a sharp angle squeezed in past Georgiev for his 30th goal of the season.
The Rangers regained the lead on the power play a couple of minutes later as Zibanejad batted in a rebound on a scramble in front.
New York got another one before the midway mark of the second as Talbot got a piece of Carey’s deflection before it trickled in behind him.
The Oilers made it 3-2 with three minutes to play in the second when McDavid turned on the jets before sending a beautiful backhand pass to Nugent-Hopkins for his 17th.
NOTES: New York swept the two-game season series, including a 4-2 victory at Madison Square Garden in November. … Nugent-Hopkins returned to the lineup after missing 18 games with a rib injury. … Edmonton defenseman Adam Larsson missed the game to attend his father’s funeral in Sweden.
Rangers: Return home to face the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
Oilers: Continue their five-game homestand Monday against the Arizona Coyotes.
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