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Oilers beat struggling Avs 4-1 @NHL
For the Edmonton Oilers, a visit from the Colorado Avalanche was a perfect tune-up for another edition of the Battle of Alberta.

A happy band of Oilers headed for Calgary and a Saturday showdown with the Flames after Edmonton whipped the struggling Avs 4-1 at Rexall Place on Friday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

The Oilers (14-12-3) had won just one of their previous six games, but the Avs are in an even bigger funk -- they've dropped three in a row overall and eight straight on the road.

"Now we can look at tonight as a semblance of what we're capable of and use that tomorrow night going into Calgary," Oilers coach Tom Renney said.

Sam Gagner, who came into the game with just one goal, scored two and added an assist. Ben Eager and Jordan Eberle scored goals and prized rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had two assists. The No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft last June leads all first-year players with 32 points.

"He's a pretty good player," said a tongue-in-cheek Renney, who even used his star rookie on the penalty kill. "I just found that out."

It was a major rebound by the Oilers after a poor showing on Wednesday in a 5-3 home loss to Carolina, which had lost six in a row.

"It was a big improvement, a better effort and just way more commitment to the little things we need to do to be successful," Renney said.

Jay McClement had the only goal for the Avs, who fell to 13-16-1 and are 0-7-1 in their last eight road games after winning their first six away from the Pepsi Center.

"We got caught out of position too many times and they took advantage of it," Colorado captain Milan Hedjuk said. "We need to play with more pride. We didn't execute.

"We got down early and started to try and chase the game. That's not how you win in this League. We have to have a hard look in the mirror and bounce back."

Gagner opened the scoring 6:07 into the game when he stole the puck from Shane O'Brien in the corner, drove to the net and got his own rebound off Kyle Quincey before tucking a power-play goal underneath Semyon Varlamov. Eager's refusal to be denied led to his second of the season at 19:23 when he got three whacks at the puck before finally chipping it past Varlamov.

McClement got the Avs back in the game at 3:29 of the second period, swatting home a loose puck after Edmonton goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin whiffed on an attempt to catch the puck as it came off the end boards.

But Nugent-Hopkins made a right-to-left feed through Gagner's legs to Eberle near the left faceoff dot for a one-timer over Varlamov's shoulder at 10:36 for a power-play goal and a 3-1 lead. It was Eberle's 30th point of the season. The star rookie then set up Gagner on a 2-on-1 for a rocket past Varlamov with three seconds left in the period.

The Oilers controlled the third period, limiting the Avs to nine shots. Khabibulin finished the game with 28 saves, including one on a breakaway by Daniel Winnik.

All in all, it was a near-perfect night for a team that had been struggling.

"It definitely feels good to turn things around," Gagner said, "and we've got another big game tomorrow so need to keep it going."

Material from team media was used in this report
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