The Edmonton Oilers just would not be denied.
The Oilers spotted Colorado a three-goal lead in the second period before roaring back with five unanswered goals for a 6-4 victory on Saturday night.
Magnus Paajarvi, who dressed only because Lennart Petrell was hit in the head by a puck during warmups and couldn't play, broke a 4-4 tie when he scored with 1:34 left in regulation. Paajarvi tapped his game-winner into a wide-open net after Ryan Smyth -- back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Tuesday -- one-handed a perfect pass across the crease.
"I got to the rink at 7:30 [p.m.] and was getting ready for a workout," Paajarvi said of being a late addition to the lineup . "I got the call at 7:55."
Jordan Eberle, whose power-play goal midway through the final period tied the game, added an empty-netter with 1:09 remaining. Eberle's second goal came on the Oilers' team-record 56th shot as Edmonton became the first team in the NHL this season to win a game after trailing by three goals.
"It's a confirmation of the path we're on and a credit to our players for staying calm," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said. "That calm kept us in the game.
"This was a great reaction. It needed to come. We knew how important this game was. We needed this win."
Colorado lost for the fourth time in five games and fell to 5-7-1 despite a 50-save performance by Semyon Varlamov, who was left to fend for himself for much of the night. The 50 saves are the second-highest total in team history; Patrick Roy stopped 51 shots at Toronto on Dec. 10, 1997.
"He was outstanding. He was our best player by far. He gave us a chance," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said of his goaltender.
But those were just about the only kind words a frustrated Sacco had for his team.
"Losing is losing, but this isn't the way you want to lose games," he said. "You're going to lose games here and there, but not the way we lost tonight. It's unacceptable.
"We got what we deserved tonight. We gave up close to 60 shots tonight. That's something we're not proud of as a group."
The game started about as well as Sacco could have asked.
The Avalanche needed only 1:22 to grab a quick 1-0 lead. John Mitchell won an offensive-zone draw to Milan Hejduk, who snapped a quick shot that Devan Dubnyk stopped but didn't control. Cody McLeod crashed the crease, found the loose puck next to Dubnyk before defenseman Ryan Whitney did and backhanded it into the net for his second of the season.
Colorado then silenced the sellout crowd of 16,839 with two goals in 24 seconds late in the period, both set up by Edmonton misplays.
Matt Duchene raced down the right side, realized that he was coming in on forward Sam Gagner rather than a defenseman, and cut toward the net. But before he could get off a shot, the puck slid off his stick -- and through Dubnyk's legs at 18:47 for his sixth of the season.
Duchene, the third player picked in the 2009 NHL Draft, then set up a 2-on-1 by tapping the puck to himself in the neutral zone. He carried into the Edmonton zone and set up Ted McGinn for a wide-open 10-footer that Dubnyk had no chance on.
The Oilers (6-5-3) got nothing from their first 22 shots at Varlamov, but they capitalized on a lucky bounce to get on the board with 3.1 seconds left in the period. Off the faceoff following a boarding penalty to McLeod on an icing call, Taylor Hall's shot from the point hit the glove of Colorado defenseman Matt Hunwick and bounced right to Ales Hemsky, who slammed it home for his sixth of the season.
Nikolai Khabibulin replaced Dubnyk to start the second period after Dubnyk allowed three goals on 12 shots in the first.
But Duchene's speed continued to be more than the Oilers could handle. He raced up ice to back off the defense and fed McGinn, whose pass set up Mitchell for a one-timer past Khabibulin at 6:24 of the second period for a 4-1 lead.
Despite the three-goal lead, Sacco said he wasn't happy with the way his team was playing.
"We had a 4-1 lead, but when it was 4-1 we weren't playing the type of game we wanted to play," he said. "The first seven or eight minutes were good, and then we got off track. That's a very good transition team. They take a lot of chances. We tried to play that same game with them, and it didn't work out for us."
Still, the Avs led by three goals well into the middle period before the Oilers scored twice in 59 seconds to cut the deficit to one.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took a pass from Hall and one-timed it past Varlamov at 15:59 for his first goal in 28 games.
"I just wanted to keep playing my game and not worry [about not scoring]," said Nugent-Hopkins, the first player taken in the 2011 NHL Draft. "It was definitely nice."
Hemsky then scored his second of the night after Smyth forced a turnover in the Colorado zone. Hemsky undressed defenseman Shane O'Brien and deked Varlamov before sliding the puck into an empty net at 16:58 for his seventh of the season to make it 4-3.
"We showed a lot of character at the end and stuck together," Hemsky said.
Eberle was wide-open just off the left post when he took a feed from Gagner, played the puck off his foot and zipped it into the open side of the net to tie the game.
"It was a crazy game, a fun atmosphere," Eberle said. "The crowd was in it and Hemmer's second goal to make it 4-3 was huge."
Material from team media was used in this report
|Cody McLeod (2) ASST: Milan Hejduk (5), John Mitchell (4)|
1 - 0 COL
|Matt Duchene (5) ASST: Jamie McGinn (7), Tyson Barrie (2)|
2 - 0 COL
|Jamie McGinn (2) ASST: Matt Duchene (8), Tyson Barrie (3)|
3 - 0 COL
|PPG - Ales Hemsky (6) ASST: Sam Gagner (10), Taylor Hall (10)|
3 - 1 COL
|PPG - John Mitchell (5) ASST: Jamie McGinn (8), Matt Duchene (9)|
4 - 1 COL
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1) ASST: Taylor Hall (11), Mark Fistric (2)|
4 - 2 COL
|Ales Hemsky (7) ASST: Ryan Smyth (2)|
4 - 3 COL
|PPG - Jordan Eberle (4) ASST: Sam Gagner (11), Nail Yakupov (4)|
4 - 4 Tie
|Magnus Paajarvi (2) ASST: Ryan Smyth (3), Eric Belanger (1)|
5 - 4 EDM
|EN - Jordan Eberle (5) ASST: Taylor Hall (12), Nick Schultz (1)|
6 - 4 EDM
|Cody McLeod Boarding against Mark Fistric|
|Ladislav Smid Interference against Aaron Palushaj|
|Ryan Smyth Holding against Ryan O'Byrne|
|Aaron Palushaj Hooking against Ryan Nugent-Hopkins|
|John Mitchell Holding against Chris VandeVelde|
|Matt Hunwick Slashing against Ben Eager|
|Ryan Smyth Elbowing against Matt Duchene|
|Magnus Paajarvi Tripping against Mark Olver|