DENVER -- The Edmonton Oilers might have known that their visit to the Pepsi Center on Friday night would be just what they needed to end a six-game losing streak.
The Oilers, led by goalie Devan Dubnyk, play some of their best hockey against the Avalanche, a trend that continued with an impressive 4-1 win. Dubnyk turned aside 33 shots and Jordan Eberle contributed a goal and two assists as the Oilers defeated the Avalanche for the fourth time in five games this season.
"It's funny how it goes sometimes," said Dubnyk, who made 35 saves in a 4-0 win in the teams' previous meeting March 12 and owns a 7-3-1 career record against the Avalanche. "For whatever reason there are buildings where you feel good in, and for me this is a building that I feel comfortable in. But you need to concentrate and make sure that it stays that way going forward. It's not like they're easy games when we play them by any means."
It's been a rough season for the Oilers, who replaced general manager Steve Tambellini with Craig MacTavish on Monday. But while the Oilers (17-19-7) still have a chance to finish at .500 with five games remaining, the Avalanche (14-23-7) is last in the Western Conference and 29th in the NHL standings with four games to play.
"I wish I had the answer," said Avalanche right wing PA Parenteau, who tied the game 1-1 at 7:29 of the first period with his team-leading 17th goal. "When we tied it, we should have been excited. We should have been in the game. We were flat. When they got the next one, it took the life out of us."
Justin Schultz broke the tie at 14:14 when he deflected in Eberle's shot. Eberle skated with the puck from the left side into the slot, spun around and slipped the puck in front where Schultz knocked it behind Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov.
Taylor Hall opened the scoring at 2:33 – three seconds after the Avalanche killed off a boarding penalty to Gabriel Landeskog. Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick couldn't control a bouncing puck in the goalmouth, it went to Hall and he tucked it inside the right post.
"They came hard at us in the first period, which is always going to happen when you're on the road," said Dubnyk, who faced 19 shots in the opening period. "We did a real good job of not really panicking and we went down and got a huge goal to make it 2-1. They were storming us, and from the second period on I thought we were awesome. We were winning battles everywhere in their end and in our end."
Eberle had a goal and an assist in the second period when the Oilers built their 4-1 lead. He passed to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a shot that beat Varlamov to the stick side at 5:12, and he converted the rebound of Mark Fistric's point shot at 14:13 for his first goal since April 3, when he scored twice in an 8-2 road win against the Calgary Flames.
"I was just [ticked] off," Eberle said. "You lose six in a row and nothing is going in for you and it's a battle. The last few games especially I feel like I have been playing well and started to get healthy and just nothing was going in for me. So it's nice to finally get on the scoresheet and help the team win. That's the biggest thing. When your team is losing and you are not contributing, it can be tough. So it was nice to do that tonight."
The Oilers were outscored 22-7 during the losing streak and outshot in all six games. The second part happened again Friday -- the Avalanche outshot the Oilers 34-24, with seven shots coming during four fruitless power plays.
"It was disappointing to be playing that way," Dubnyk said of his team's play during the losing streak. "We were getting away from some of the basic things that we needed to be doing to win games and it was showing. That was certainly not the case tonight. It was fun to watch. That's how we need to play."
The Avalanche had gone 2-0-2 in their previous four games but reverted to the kind of play that has been all too common this season.
"It's happened too many times this year where we get deflated on the bench," Parenteau said. "It's tough right now. It's not fun. We've been playing better hockey, but tonight it was kind of lifeless. The score doesn't lie."