DENVER -- As expected, a couple of first-round draft picks took center stage Friday night at the Pepsi Center.
But while the pregame hype revolved around Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
and Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog
, the first two picks in the 2011 NHL Draft, Devan Dubnyk
and Ryan Smyth
stole the show in the Oilers' 3-1 win over the Avalanche.
Dubnyk, taken 14th in the first round by the Oilers in 2004, stopped 40 shots and Smyth, the sixth player selected back in 1994, had a goal and two assists as Edmonton skated to its fourth consecutive win and moved into first place in the Northwest Division, two points ahead of Colorado.
The Avalanche have totaled just two goals while losing all three of their home games this season. They had plenty of chances on Friday, but Dubnyk made the difference.
"Doobie played unbelievable," Smyth said. "Our goalies all year have done the job for us. It starts in our own zone, defense first, and the goaltending has done the trick for us."
Smyth, who spent the 20007-08 and '08-09 seasons with Colorado, quashed any hopes of an Avalanche comeback with 6:09 remaining in regulation. Ryan O'Reilly
's power-play goal 27 seconds earlier had cut the Oilers lead to 2-1, but Smyth restored the two-goal advantage when he jammed the puck between Semyon Varlamov
's pads after the Avalanche goalie made a stop on Shawn Horcoff
"Horcoff threw it at the net a couple times and I drove the net and it went off my stick 5-hole," Smyth said. "It was the timing of the goal, I think, that helped us. It was a key moment."
The 6-foot-5 Dubnyk's play has been extraordinary against the Avalanche, whose 41 shots were a season high. Dubnyk went 2-0-1 against Colorado last season while posting a 1.62 goals-against average and .950 save percentage.
"It's a great feeling," he said of the Oilers' 6-2-2 record and first-place standing after finishing last in the overall standings in each of the past two seasons. "We're happy, we're excited. We feel good about the way we're playing. But it's not like anyone is getting too excited or going crazy about it."
Nugent-Hopkins, who has five goals and four assists, didn't enjoy one of his better games. He logged 13:28 in ice time, had one shot and lost six of nine faceoffs hours after learning the Oilers were keeping him for the rest of the season.
Landeskog, who has four goals and two assists, had six shots in 17:58 of ice time and had one second left on his penalty for goalie interference when Cam Barker
gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead at 7:55 of the second period.
"I think we played well," said Landeskog, who had already been told he was staying. "We created a lot of chances in front of the net. We got a lot of pucks to the goalie there, but we didn't seem to get the bounces and obviously their goalie played well."
The Oilers, who matched the season low of 19 shots they registered in Thursday's 2-1 home win against Washington, grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second period.
Barker put a backhander behind Varlamov after accepting a pass from Sam Gagner
while driving to the net and Andy Sutton
tipped in Lennart Petrell
's 35-foot blast at 14:20.
That was more than enough offense the way Dubnyk was playing. He made his fourth start of the young season -- he gave 38-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin
the night off after the Oilers arrived at their Denver hotel at 3:30 in the morning after traveling overnight from Edmonton.
"That is our job," Dubnyk said. "The way (Khabibulin) has been playing the last little while, it made it much more important for me to come in and give these guys just as good of an effort as he has been doing. There can't be any lapse or any change when we go back and forth."
The Avalanche has lost back-to-back games for the first time this season and three of the past four following a 5-1-0 start. Colorado has been outscored 9-2 in dropping all three of its home games.
"That's three games lost at home right now," O'Reilly said. "This should be our barn. We should be used to the air and we should be in better shape than most teams, and that's killing us right now. Personally, for my game, I had some early chances and I should have had a couple (goals) to give us the momentum. Unfortunately, I didn't.
"(Dubnyk) did play well. Our goalie played just as good, we just made a couple of errors. They didn't make too many mistakes in the neutral zone; they were pretty disciplined. They played a pretty good game, too. We had a couple of errors and they capitalized on them."