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Oilers weather storm, power past Avs 4-1

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers

Shawn Horcoff battles with Matt Duchene on Jan. 28, 2013 (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club).

EDMONTON - Considering it was the League's most penalized team making an appearance Monday night at Rexall Place, the on again, off again Edmonton Oilers did exactly what they needed to.

The Oilers were disciplined, got the quick start they needed and, on the back of four power-play goals, thumped the visiting Colorado Avalanche 4-1.

Ales Hemsky, Jordan Eberle, Shawn Horcoff and Nail Yakupov with an empty-netter did the damage for the home side, while Devan Dubnyk made 37 saves en route to the club's third win of the 2012-13 season.

On the night, the Oilers were 4-for-6 with the man-advantage. Colorado pushed back in the third, but the home side held it together.

"We spoke about that (discipline) this morning," said Head Coach Ralph Krueger. "The puck management through the first 40 minutes was an excellent reaction to our discussion and it's a positive when we work on something, the guys carry it out and have success with it. It was an excellent game and the kind we want to see on nightly basis.

"The Avalanche never gave up on the game, pushed us in the third and we had to buckle down to close it out. We're pleased because we've had two good learning opportunities so far this season. The game against San Jose was all about the play away from the puck and the one in Calgary was about our game with the puck.

"We need to consolidate those. I maintain that all the players are going to take this one with them to Phoenix. We're going to be a tough team to play against."

The only thing Oilers fans were left wanting more of? Even-strength production is still scarce, but as long as the W's keep coming, Krueger can't (and won't) complain. It will come.

"It gave us courage," he said. "We might not have scored 5-on-5, but the success we had and the chances we were able to generate gave our power-play a chance. That's critical throughout the League and we want to get even better at it."

"Our power-play was clicking," added Eberle, who scored the game-winner and has now collected three goals and six points this season. "We were a little hesitant 5-on-5 and are struggling a bit, but when your power-play is clicking. it helps a lot. We generated three [sic] goals on that and kept the puck out of our own net.

"We had two great periods and our third was a little sloppy, but Dubey was there to hold the door and weather the storm. Colorado was outshooting us and getting a lot of chances in the third, but we had to get back to our game. We did that and the rest is history."

The Oilers were rewarded with their second power-play of the game as Avalanche winger Jamie McGinn was called for holding at 13:24. With only one second remaining in the advantage, Ales Hemsky made it a 1-0 game. Sam Gagner's point shot eluded everyone en route, while Teemu Hartikainen was quick to hop on the rebound. Semyon Varlamov stopped the Finn's repeated attempts, but Hemsky pounced and popped the puck past the netminder.

Less than a minute later, Matt Duchene was assessed an interference minor. Late in the power-play, Taylor Hall and Ryan Whitney sprung Eberle on a dangerous-looking rush. Off the wing and with the Colorado defence backing in, the 22-year-old made no mistake by launching a missile up and over the helpless goaltender.

It was, perhaps, the most perfectly placed shot of the sniper's young career.

The Oilers were up 2-0 and were in possession of a 14-3 lead in shots after one. It couldn't have been a better start.

On its fourth man-advantage of the night midway through the second period, Edmonton took a 3-0 lead. This time it was captain Shawn Horcoff raising the roof, picking up his first goal of the season after redirecting a pass in the slot.

The goal resulted in Horcoff's 437th point as an Oiler, which moves him past Esa Tikkanen for eighth all time in team scoring.

"The first 40 was good, but we didn't play the last period like we wanted to," he said. "We got pucks in and used our speed on the forecheck. We forced them to take some penalties and our special teams were good.

"They came hard, they responded like we knew they would. Our key is our speed and our ability to get pucks in deep and wear them down. It's a 60-minute game. It's all about doing the smart things so that, by the end of 60, it adds up to a pretty complete effort. Tonight we were able to do that."

PA Parenteau brought the Avalanche back in it with a goal 7:34 into the third. Colorado outshot the Oilers 24-6 in the period, but it was too little, too late as Dubnyk stopped 23 of them.

"It was a good lesson for us to have a lead like that and see that, in the National Hockey League, no one's going to quit on a game or quit on points," Krueger said. "Other teams are going to say, ‘Go at them hard,' and we have to be able to deal with that pressure.

"To string a couple (wins) together is what we're reaching for now, and that's going to be critical to keep up with the pack."

-- Ryan Dittrick, | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick

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