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Penner's late goal gives Oilers their first win

by Brian Compton
As far as season openers go, this was one to remember.
Sort of.
Dustin Penner scored twice – including the game-winner with just 5.4 seconds remaining – as the Edmonton Oilers opened the 2008-09 campaign on Sunday night with a 3-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Rexall Place.
The Oilers waited a long time to play a regular-season game – 192 days, to be exact – which would explain the rust they showed on Sunday. Mathieu Garon was sharp, though, as he helped Edmonton escape with a victory despite the 33-19 disparity in the shots on goal department.
“It felt great to get a start like that to the season,” Penner said. “It’s something to build on for myself and for the whole team. We have to take the momentum from this win even though we didn't have our best game."
Not only were the Oilers bombarded by shots, but they failed more often than not in the face-off circle. The Avs won 36 of 50 draws, but fell to 0-2 on the season.
“That's not the way we drew it up, for sure,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "It's nice to be able to win a game when you don't have your best stuff. We were fortunate to win but we will take it. The reason we won the game was our goalie outplayed their goalie and when that happens, you can get away with a stinker.”
Shawn Horcoff tallied the Oilers’ first goal of the season at 6:59 of the opening period. After Paul Stastny was whistled for high sticking, Horcoff took a pass from Ales Hemsky and ripped it past Peter Budaj as Edmonton grabbed a 1-0 lead.
The score would stay that way until 11:15 of the second, when the ageless Joe Sakic tied things up with his first goal of the season. With the teams at even strength, the Avs fired away at Edmonton goalie Mathieu Garon, who stopped consecutive shots by Stastny and Scott Hannan. But Sakic was there to make the third time the charm, as he poked the rebound home to make it 1-1.
The Oilers regained the lead when Penner notched his first of two goals at 5:57 of the third period. The power forward used his size and strength to his advantage, as he stormed around the net with the puck and beat Budaj on a wraparound as Edmonton held a 2-1 edge.
Budaj was disappointed that he wasn’t able to put forth a better performance in a game that was mostly dominated by the Avalanche.
“It seemed like they were able to get the bounces, whether it was a tip or whatever, the puck went in,” Budaj said. “I have to find a way to help the team win hockey games and I have to find a way to make that save when it counts.”
Colorado tied the game in dramatic fashion at the midway point, when Milan Hejduk scored on a penalty shot. The Avs were awarded the free breakaway after it was ruled that the Oilers closed a hand on the puck in the goal crease. Hejduk then came down and beat Garon stick side to make it 2-2. It was Hejduk’s second goal of the season, and he improved to 3-for-3 on penalty shots in his career.
But with time winding down, Penner parked himself in front of the net, where he was able to redirect a shot by Ethan Moreau past Budaj for the game-winning tally.
“We got a few good bounces, and I have to attribute that to my juggling in the offseason,” Penner joked. “Good things happen when you put the puck to the net, and I was just trying to get to the front of the net. It’s not the prettiest I’m going to get, but I’ll take them.”
Good things also happen when you get strong goaltending, which is exactly what the Oilers received in their season opener. In the end, Garon was the main reason why Edmonton escaped with two points.
“That's going to happen in a season. Sometimes you play really well and don't get a win and sometimes it works the other way," Garon said. “Sometimes it is hard to play that first game. You can be a bit nervous. Colorado had already played a game. It was just good to get that one done and get away with a win the way we did.”

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.

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