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Potulny capitalizes on call-up as Oilers' PP leads way

by Rick Sadowski /
DENVER – It was a special Sunday night for Ryan Potulny and the Edmonton Oilers.

Summoned from the minors the day before because of numerous injuries, Potulny scored one of Edmonton’s four power-play goals and added an assist as the Oilers pulled off a surprising 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

The Avalanche, which is tied with San Jose for the most points (26) in the NHL, won all six of its previous games at home while the Oilers had lost five of their first six road games and six of their last seven overall.

Potulny scored what proved to be the decisive goal at 4:44 of the third period when he one-timed Denis Grebeshkov’s pass behind goalie Craig Anderson for a 4-2 lead.

"It felt great to be out there, and to be able to produce and help the team," said Potulny, who centered a line with Ethan Moreau and Zack Stortini. "Any time you can come up and do that, it feels good."

Potulny, who had three goals and five assists in 14 games with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons, also picked up an assist on Tom Gilbert’s first-period power-play goal. He had a team-high five shots and was named the game’s first star.

"It has been a pretty exciting 24 hours," Potulny said. "But you don’t try and think about it too much. It’s the game of hockey and you go out and play it like you’ve done your whole life."

After the Avalanche closed the gap to 4-3 on a goal by David Jones at 7:27 of the third period, the Oilers regained their two-goal lead when Andrew Cogliano scored with 3:20 remaining -- just nine seconds after Colorado killed off its second too-many-men penalty of the game.

The Avalanche began the game with an 86.1 percent success rate killing penalties, the second-best mark in the League.

"We just didn’t do a good job of killing penalties," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "The difference in the game was special teams. We weren’t good enough on the penalty kill, bottom line. They made some good plays, they found some seams and we just weren’t sharp."

The Avalanche power play didn’t help. Colorado went 0-for-4 and is in a 1-for-25 rut covering eight games.

"I think we have to start shooting the puck a little bit more," Sacco said. "We have to continue to try and get traffic to the net. When you’re struggling, you have to keep it simple."

Down 3-1 after the first period, the Avalanche climbed to within a goal at 4:56 of the second period when T.J. Hensick scored his first goal of the season.

Brett Clark took a long shot through a crowd of bodies in front of Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, and Hensick tipped the puck into the net. Hensick, a healthy scratch for 13 of Colorado’s first 17 games, was in the lineup because Milan Hejduk was scratched with a sore back.

"He took the warmup and he wasn’t able to play after that," Sacco said of Hejduk.    

The Oilers, who began the night in a 2-for-17 slump on power plays, went 4-for-7 with the man advantage and connected on all three of their first-period opportunities to build a 3-1 lead.

"It’s big when the power play gets going," Potulny said. "That can win you games, like it showed tonight. It helped us win the game. We talked about it earlier, just moving the puck quick. If you can move it and get them out of position, someone’s going to be open."

Mike Comrie scored at 4:47, banging the puck into a half-open net after Sam Gagner’s pass deflected off the stick of Colorado’s Paul Stastny.

After the Avalanche’s Marek Svatos poked a rebound between Khabibulin’s pads to tie the game at the eight-minute mark, the Oilers got power-play goals a little more than four minutes apart from Gilbert and Dustin Penner.

Gilbert rifled a shot by Anderson’s glove at 14:48 and Penner followed with 57.8 seconds to play in the period with a one-timer from inside the right faceoff circle.

"It wasn’t a very disciplined game by us," Sacco said. "You can’t take penalties in your offensive zone. Two hundred feet away from your net, you can’t take penalties. We have to be sharper than that."

Said Stastny: "Mentally we were not in it. We took a couple of bad penalties, and eventually those are going to come back to haunt you."

Both teams were missing a number of regulars. Hejduk and John-Michael Liles (shoulder) were notable scratches for the Avalanche, which lost Scott Hannan for most of the second period after he was hit in the face with a deflected puck.

Ales Hemsky (shoulder), Shawn Horcoff (shoulder) and Sheldon Souray (concussion) didn’t dress for the Oilers.

"It was a big game for us," Moreau said. "We are starting a five-game road trip and we have a lot of guys out that are key to our team."

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