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Avalanche stay perfect at home, defeat Oilers

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in three years is an obvious goal for the Colorado Avalanche. So is improving last season's mediocre home record.

The Avalanche are off to a good start in that department with three wins in as many home games following Saturday's 3-1 victory against the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center to begin a four-game homestand.

"I just think in order to have a lot of success in this League, you have to be a dominant home team," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "We're off to a good start and there's a long way to go, but certainly it's the way we want to play at home. We want to play a fast, quick game. You take care of business on the road here and there, but if you can take care of it consistently at home you're going to have a better chance at success."

The Avalanche remained in the hunt for a postseason berth until the final week last season and might have succeeded except for gaining only 46 points in 41 home games.

"The years this organization made good runs, they were always a dominant home team," center Paul Stastny said. "All the teams that make the playoffs and make good runs are dominant at home, and that's something we want to harp on."

PA Parenteau and Jamie McGinn scored 3:29 apart late in the second period to give the Avalanche a 2-1 lead, and Stastny scored into an empty net with 1:10 to play in the third period shortly after exiting the penalty box.

Stastny admitted to sweating a bit while watching his teammates kill off what turned out to be a 6-on-4 Oilers' power play with goalie Devan Dubnyk off the ice for an extra skater. He had momentarily covered the puck in the right circle with his glove to earn a delay of game faceoff violation with 3:20 left in regulation.

"It was the longest two minutes just sitting there," Stastny said. "I had just tried to put (the puck) under me. Everything happened so fast. That's the first time it's been called on us. It's one of those new rules. Two of the (officials) said it wasn't a penalty and one of them said it was. What are you going to do? But we got a big kill out of it and a big W."

Parenteau collected his team-leading sixth goal at 12:07 of the second period, three seconds after the Avalanche failed to connect on back-to-back power plays, to tie the game 1-1. He skated to the front of the net to put a deflection behind Dubnyk after Ryan Wilson fired a shot from the blue line that first hit McGinn.

McGinn, who has launched a team-leading 24 shots in the Avalanche's first eight games, broke the tie at 15:36 with his first goal. It came 10 seconds after Colorado finished killing off a hooking penalty to David Van Der Gulik. Matt Duchene set up the goal with a pass in front after stealing the puck from Ales Hemsky and fending off the Oiler's check.

"It's a long time coming," said McGinn, who scored eight goals in 17 games last year following his trade deadline acquisition from San Jose. "I've had a lot of chances so far, so it's nice to see one hit the back of the net. I'm just going to continue to do what I do and stay positive."

Duchene enjoyed a big game with six shots and two assists in 25:07 of ice time. He also won 16 of 24 faceoffs and helped kill off all three of the Oilers' power plays, but was happier to see McGinn finally light the lamp.

"He's been snake-bitten," Duchene said. "It was awesome to see him score and there will be many more to come from him, for sure."

The Avalanche took a season-high 40 shots, 18 of which came during six unsuccessful power plays. Colorado has gone just 2-of-27 with the man advantage this season.

"I liked our power play," Sacco said. "I liked the first few that we had. We generated some good chances off it. We had some good looks, we had some good movement. We needed a little more net presence, but overall it was better. It just looked like we were on the attack more. We didn't get the results we wanted, but it's something to build on."

The Oilers couldn't build on their quick start after rookie Nail Yakupov scored on the game's initial shot at the 58-second mark of the first period. Spending so much time in the penalty box didn't help.

"That's part of unraveling," Oilers forward Sam Gagner said. "You have to make sure you're disciplined. When you're in the box as much as we were, it's hard to get that flow. It's something we've got to learn from."

The Avalanche started the game without three injured forwards – Steve Downie (knee), David Jones (knee) and Gabriel Landeskog (head) – and lost Wilson to a leg injury late in the second period. Wilson will be re-evaluated Sunday.

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