EDMONTON (CP) - As Edmonton's losses pile up, it's getting tough for Oilers coach Craig MacTavish to find a silver lining.
The Oilers winless streak reached 12 games as they were crushed 5-1 by the Avalanche on Wednesday. Edmonton (30-37-7) is also winless in 11 games since trading forward Ryan Smyth to the New York Islanders, and is nearing the team-record 14 game winless streak from the 1993-94 season.
As opposed to other recent efforts that MacTavish called encouraging, he seemed resigned that the Oilers had taken a step backward in this one.
"The best indicator of the things to come was turning over the puck three times in the first 13 seconds of the game," MacTavish said. "When you are at a size and skill disadvantage you want to make sure you are playing a smart game and we started off not playing that way.
"Our biggest weakness was our inability to defend. We vacated the dangerous areas of the ice. It was disappointing on a lot of fronts."
Ian Laperriere had two goals and Tyler Arnason a career high three assists as the Colorado Avalanche won their fourth in a row.
Joe Sakic, John-Michael Liles and Brett Clark also scored for Colorado while Patrick Thoresen had the only goal for Edmonton.
With the victory the surging Avalanche (38-29-6) are now 9-0-1 in their last 10 games and are pressing hard for a post-season spot. They are just four points back of the Calgary Flames for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"We came out hard in the first period which we knew we had to do against a team which is down like theirs," said Arnason. "We knew we had to get the lead and if we did we would have a good chance. We have a lot of confidence right now. It is just snowballing."
The Avs admit things are going well right now as they have jumped from a team facing a double digit deficit less than a month ago to now realistically within striking distance of the playoffs.
"We have a lot of momentum right now and a lot of confidence," said Colorado head coach Joel Quenneville. "We feel good about ourselves and are doing a good job keeping in that must win mode."
Laperriere says the Avalanche players are trying not to get too far ahead of themselves.
"We're just taking it one game at a time," he said. "Every point is so huge right now. We have nine games left and are four points back and we can't afford to let up. I like the way we are playing right now and the way we have approached our games. It is something we will have to repeat and repeat and
The Avalanche buried Edmonton quickly in this one, scoring just 1:29 in. The Oilers couldn't clear a puck that was bouncing around in the crease in front of netminder Dwayne Roloson and Laperriere was there to swat it in.
Colorado went up 2-0 less than three minutes later as Andrew Brunette outmuscled Raffi Torres behind the Edmonton net and sent a backhander out front to Sakic who one-timed his 31st of the season past Roloson.
Colorado kept coming in waves to start the second as well and got another early goal on the injury-riddled Oilers. Tyler Arnason found Laperriere with a no-look backhand pass from behind the net and the Avs assistant captain scored on a wrist shot for his second of the night and a 3-0 lead.
The Avalanche chased Roloson from the Edmonton net with just over five minutes left in the second as Liles scored on a power-play point shot.
Jussi Markkanen came on in relief between the pipes for the Oilers. He didn't fare much better as the Avalanche went ahead 5-0 a minute and a half later when Clark converted on a 2-on-1 pass from Brunette.
Edmonton was finally able to bust Peter Budaj's shutout bid five minutes into the third as Fernando Pisani picked off a pass while short handed and saw the rebound on his shot squirt out to Thoresen who scored his first goal since Oct. 17, snapping a 53-game drought.
"The way the game was going I only felt like I should put one arm in the air to celebrate," said Thoresen. "But it was nice to get a goal when it has been so long."
The Oilers and Avalanche will both remain in Edmonton for a rematch on Friday.
Notes: With Calgary's 2-1 victory over Detroit on Tuesday the Oilers were officially eliminated from the playoffs, one year removed from playing in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final. With nine games to go, it marked the earliest Edmonton has ever been knocked out of contention. . . . With the Oilers out, veteran defenceman Steve Staios has opted to have surgery on his left knee rather than trying to come back this season. Staios was one of 10 injured players missing from the Edmonton lineup. . . . Budaj has played in all but four of the Avalanche's last 33 games dating back to December 27. . . . The Avalanche haven't missed the playoffs since moving to Colorado in 1995. . . . Colorado's Paul Stastny was held pointless, ending his NHL rookie record road scoring streak at 15 consecutive games.