DENVER – Home might never have sounded so sweet to the Edmonton Oilers after they completed a nine-game, 16-day road trip on a successful note Tuesday at the Pepsi Center.
The Oilers hardly looked weary while cruising to a 4-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche, who had won five consecutive home games and were trying to move above .500 for the first time since the third game of the season.
Linemates Sam Gagner and Marcus Paajarvi each contributed a goal and an assist for the Oilers, who followed Sunday's 6-5 win at Chicago in impressive fashion to finish the marathon trip with a 3-4-2 record.
The Oilers, who started their excursion Feb. 25 at Chicago, will open a four-game homestand Friday against the Detroit Red Wings and will play 14 of their final 22 games at Rexall Place.
"Our home has been an airplane," said Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk, who was solid in goal while making 36 saves. "We'll have to get used to being home again. I think everybody's real excited to get back to Edmonton. When you have a tough road trip like this, it just feels nice counting down (the time) and knowing you're going to get the win."
Dubnyk showed no ill effects from the neck injury that forced him to leave in the second period Sunday when he collided with teammate Teemu Hartikainen after making a save against the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa.
"It was good," he said. "In quick plays and jerking around it would grab a bit, but nothing that I would even think for a second about tentatively moving around at all."
The Oilers grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Shawn Horcoff and Gagner. Horcoff scored on a breakaway at 11:20 after the Avalanche's Gabriel Landeskog fell down while backpedaling in the Oilers' end, and Gagner skated through the crease to poke in a rebound after Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov knocked down defenseman Ryan Whitney's shot from the top of the left circle.
"I got a little lucky break on my goal there and then we just did a really good job, all four lines, of picking up the pace and getting to the net," said Horcoff, who also scored Sunday against Chicago after missing the previous 15 games with a broken knuckle in his right hand. "It's not easy to finish in Denver. I think we were all sucking wind a little bit, but when you're not feeling great like that, that's the kind of game we have to play.
"In a lot of ways you can look back on this trip, hopefully at the end of the year, and say it was pivotal for us. We came through; we faced so much adversity. There was so much gloom and doom here going into Chicago with the media and within the locker room knowing where we were and looking at where we could possibly be in only a week. We felt like if we didn't win these last two games, we could really be on the outside looking in. I'm really proud and impressed with the way the guys responded."
Paajarvi gave the Oilers a 3-0 lead at 12:16 of the second period. He scooped up the puck in the neutral zone, sped down left wing into the Avalanche end, cut in front of Colorado's Jamie McGinn and put a shot on goal while skating through the goal mouth. Varlamov made the initial stop, but the rebound popped in the air and Paajarvi batted it into the net.
"That was just a bounce on our blue line and I got the puck, was speeding, and I went to the net and shot it and it kind of got in a pretty good loop so I could just follow it," Paajarvi said. "It was kind of lucky, but it was nice to get it."
The Avalanche thought they closed within 3-1 at 3:47 of the third period when Jan Hejda scored from the left point. But referee Stephen Walkom immediately waved off the goal, ruling Landeskog was in the crease.
"I think it was a great call," Dubnyk said. "It's not much, but the difference is I got out to my spot (just inside the outer edge of the crease) and set, and he moved back into me and didn't allow me to make the save. If it goes the other way where he's there, I can't just move into him and try to sell it."
Said Landeskog: "Steve said that I was in the crease. I didn't get a good look at it. I thought I wasn't in the crease. I thought I wasn't disturbing the goalie. It was his call and he probably saw it way better than I did. It's unfortunate because that goal could have been the start of a comeback."
Instead, the Oilers made it 4-0 at 6:32 when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored from the slot on a power play after the Avalanche were penalized for having too many men on the ice. It was Nugent-Hopkins' first goal in 12 games and second in 25 games this season.
Edmonton has won three of four meetings against Colorado, which lost for the fifth time this season in its first game after reaching the .500 mark. The Avalanche were coming off big wins against Chicago and San Jose, and they have yet to win three games in a row this season.
"After two emotional wins, we have to feed off them and keep it going, especially here at home," Landeskog said. "But we let them get away with a 2-0 lead and then 3-0, and then it's an uphill battle. There are no easy teams in this League and we know that. We just have to put this one behind us."