|Not everyone in Edmonton greeted Ryan Smyth with a warm welcome home.
Often referred to as “Captain Canada,” Smyth was back in Edmonton – a place that holds many fond memories for the power forward. Tuesday provided him with one more.
In the end, Smyth’s new team, the Colorado Avalanche, earned its first road victory of the season with a 4-2 win over the Oilers. While Smyth was held off the scoresheet, he certainly was the No. 1 star in the minds of so many who passed through the turnstiles in Edmonton.
As expected, there were tears prior to opening faceoff; the Oilers offered a video tribute to Smyth, who led the Oilers to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. When it was over, Smyth was given a standing ovation by the capacity crowd of 16,839.
"It was obviously very emotional," Smyth said. "It's quite an honor to come back to the city where you started your NHL career and be recognized like I was tonight. The fans were great."
While everyone in the Colorado organization was pleased that Smyth left town with a victory, coach Joel Quenneville was relived to see his team get that elusive road win.
"It was a big win," Quenneville said. "We needed it after a couple of games slipped away. We needed to get our confidence, get our first road win – and it was good to get the win for Smytty."
Colorado capitalized on a turnover and grabbed a 1-0 lead when Tyler Arnason scored 9:44 into the game. Arnason swiped the puck from Oilers defenseman Denis Grebeshkov, triggering a 2-on-1. Arnason elected to shoot and fired a wrist shot past Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson for his second goal of the season.
But the Oilers came right back when their prized free-agent signee, Dustin Penner, tied the game less than three minutes later. Penner finished off an odd-man rush by taking a pass from Andrew Cogliano and beating Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj to make it 1-1. It was Penner’s second goal of the season.
While it was a memorable night for Smyth, it also was one to remember for teammate Jaroslav Hlinka, who gave Colorado the lead just 23 seconds after Penner had tied the game by scoring his first NHL goal. The play unfolded after Roloson made an initial save on a blast by defenseman John-Michael Liles. The puck came right out to Hlinka, who stuffed it home to make it 2-1.
Wojtek Wolski gave the Avalanche their first two-goal lead of the night with 1:17 remaining in the first. The Polish forward was able to stuff a puck underneath a sprawled-out Roloson for his third goal of the season.
“Right now, we’re just trying to get as many wins as possible,” Wolski said. “I think the last two games, we lost pretty close games. We should have had the win. Tonight, we wanted to make sure we came out and got a win.”
Budaj stopped all 12 shots he faced in a scoreless second period, but Edmonton’s Tom Gilbert cut the deficit in half midway through the third. A pass from Sam Gagner was intended for Penner, but hit his skate instead and landed on Gilbert’s stick. The Oilers’ forward fired a blast past Budaj to make it 3-2.
But Edmonton failed to notch the equalizer, and Brett Clark sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with just 18 seconds to play as the Avalanche finally picked up a win away from the Pepsi Center – they had been 4-0 at home and 0-4 on the road. Wolski, however, feels there’s no time for relief. Colorado (5-4-0) visits the Calgary Flames on Friday night.
“I don’t know if we’re going to relax,” he said. “It’s only one win. We have been giving up a couple of leads in a couple of games that we should have won. Right now, we’re just trying to focus on the next game and the next win.”
Meanwhile, the struggling Oilers (3-6-0) have dropped six of their last seven games. It won’t get any easier for Edmonton, which hosts the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.
"We need to win for sure against our division," forward Jarret Stoll said. "If you don't play well against your division, you're not going to look that good at the end of the year. It's a very good and competitive division and we have to come out stronger and play better against those teams."
Material from wire services was used in this report.