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Avery-less Stars fall in Edmonton @NHLdotcom

Suspended agitator Sean Avery was in New York for a meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. The last-place Dallas Stars were in big trouble, too, in Edmonton.

The Oilers took a three-goal lead early in the second period and ended up winning 5-2 on Wednesday night in Dallas' second game without Avery, suspended by the NHL for using a crude expression to describe former girlfriends dating other NHL players.

"We were a little flat at the start," Mike Modano said. "It's tough to come from behind like that with a team like this and how good the crowd gets behind them when they get some momentum going. So you play catch up early and it's tough to win."

In Edmonton, Alberta, Shawn Horcoff, Lubomir Visnovsky, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Ales Hemsky and Andrew Cogliano scored for the Oilers, and Mathieu Garon made 23 saves in his first start since Nov. 6 to help the Oilers end a five-game home losing streak.

Modano had two third-period goals for Dallas, pushing his record for NHL goals by a U.S.-born player to 539. The Stars had won their last seven games in Edmonton.

In other NHL games Wednesday night, it was: the New York Rangers 3, Pittsburgh 2 in a shootout; Minnesota 4, St. Louis 0; Chicago 4, Anaheim 2; and Ottawa 5, Atlanta 1.

Hours after Avery spoke to the media Tuesday in Calgary, Bettman suspended him indefinitely for making "inappropriate public comments, not pertaining to the game."

Avery's former girlfriend, actress Elisha Cuthbert, is dating Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf and also has been romantically linked to Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek. Avery also dated Rachel Hunter, the former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model and actress who is now seeing Los Angeles center Jarrett Stoll.

Avery apologized Wednesday and was set to meet with Bettman on Thursday.

"I would like to sincerely apologize for my off-color remarks to the press yesterday from Calgary," said Avery, in his first season with Dallas after signing a four-year, $15.5 million deal as a free agent during the offseason. "I should not have made those comments and I recognize that they were inappropriate.

"It was a bad attempt to build excitement for the game, but I am now acutely aware of how hurtful my actions were. I caused unnecessary embarrassment to my peers as well as people I have been close with in the past."

Stars goaltender Marty Turco tried to put Avery out of his mind.

"We addressed it yesterday and were pretty forthright," Turco said. "A few of us were honest, but we have quite a hole to climb out of as a team and that's what all of our focus has been today and will be, certainly, in the immediate future. I said earlier, it's out of my hands and none of my concern at this point."

At New York, Petr Prucha returned from exile to score his first goal of the season late in the third period, and New York went on to win in a shootout.

Prucha had been a healthy scratch for the previous 10 games and turned down the Rangers' request over the weekend to go to the AHL on a conditioning assignment.

Nikolai Zherdev scored in regulation and the shootout, and Markus Naslund and Fredrik Sjostrom also scored in the tiebreaker. Henrik Lundqvist earned his NHL-leading 16th win and improved to 6-1 in shootouts this season.

Mark Eaton and Jordan Staal scored in regulation for Pittsburgh.

At St. Paul, Minn., Niklas Backstrom made 22 saves for his third shutout of the season and 12th in three seasons with Minnesota.

Andrew Brunette, Marek Zidlicky, Eric Belanger and Antti Miettinen scored to help Minnesota take the Northwest Division lead with its third victory in four games.

At Chicago, Jonathan Toews broke a tie with 1:35 left in regulation for Chicago, beating goalie Jonas Hiller from the edge of the crease.

Martin Havlat and Patrick Sharp also scored, Dave Bolland added an empty-net goal, and Cristobal Huet made 30 saves. Teemu Selanne and Chris Pronger scored for Anaheim.

At Ottawa, Dany Heatley had a goal and two assists in the first period, and Alex Auld stopped 22 shots for Ottawa.

Heatley opened the scoring with his 13th goal, then set up goals by linemates Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson. Brendan Bell and Shean Donovan added goals. Eric Boulton scored for Atlanta.

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