DENVER, CO -
The Colorado Avalanche scored a power play and shorthanded goal and outshot their visitors 38-29, to propel them to a 4-2 finish over the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center tonight.
"It took us until the third period to get our legs underneath us," said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "We weren't skating, we weren't supporting the puck. It looked like we were looking to the people next to us to do the job. It can never be that way. You have to take it on yourself. Good things don't come to people who wait; good things come to people who take charge and take control, and we didn't do that."
With 5:10 remaining in the first period, Jeff Petry completed his pass to Taylor Hall which sprung the forward free across the Colorado blue line. With plenty of open space to work with, Hall looked off Semyon Varlamov, like he intended to pass the puck, then fired a shot over the glove of the Avalanche goaltender. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins earned the second assist on the goal, which put the Oilers up 1-0.
"I looked over to Ebs and saw that he wasn't open, so I just decided to rip it," said Hall. "Luckily, it went in. Just a good play by Petry to get it up to me there."
With under 1:30 to play in the opening frame, Sam Gagner caught Colorado's Paul Statsny in the face with his stick. He was called for the five-minute major for cross-checking and given the game misconduct.
"In times like that, whether a winger goes down or a centreman goes down, you've got to try and fill the role as best as possible," said Nugent-Hopkins who took on the bulk of the workload at centre with Gagner out. "Today it was a centre. We definitely had to double-shift at times."
Hall also received a penalty to close out the first, as he was called for unsportsmanlike conduct at the final whistle of the period.
At 1:07 of the second period, the Avalanched made good on that power play. Statsny passed the puck to Tyson Barrie who fired a shot past the glove of Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk. Matt Duchene earned the second assist on the game-tying goal.
Edmonton would kill off the remainder of the Avalanche man advantage.
Hall would again be instrumental on the Oilers second goal of the night. At 12:10 of the second period, Hall battled for the puck behind Varlamov, looped around to the slot and passed it backdoor for Nugent-Hopkins. The Oilers centre finished the play to give Edmonton the 2-1 lead.
"I didn't really have a shot," said Hall. "It seemed like there were a lot of guys in my way after I stripped that guy. Nuge made a good play to go to the back door and keep his eye on the puck coming through a lot of traffic. A good goal for us, but unfortunately not enough tonight."
With five minutes even on the clock in the middle frame, Nathan Mackinnon faked the slap shot and passed the puck to Ryan O'Reilly, who buried it to tie the game once again for Colorado.
An interference call to Patrick Bordeleau would give the Oilers a power play with just over two minutes remaining in the second. What should have been a blessing would turn into a burden for Edmonton. Maxime Talbot scored shorthanded giving the home team their first lead of the night.
"The whole bench is shaking their head…," said Eakins. "it's disgusting. It's a hard way to try to get back into the game when you're dying for a power play and we're giving up that. That's a big problem.
"You need your power play to give you strength. You need your power play to give you momentum. And they are sucking the life out of us right now. It has to change… Those players have to be better. It's as simple as that."
Talbot's tally was the eighth opponent shorthanded goal given up by the Oilers, this season.
Duchene would ice the game with his empty netter with 1.1 seconds remaining.
The loss closes out a road trip in which the Oilers went 0-4-0. They have now lost five straight games.
"It was a tough trip for us," said Nugent-Hopkins. "I thought we played three pretty good games, the last three games. It's tough. Being right there and not being able to win. You want to be the team that's on the other side of this. It's frustrating. Tonight, it's the same thing, a lot of 3-2 losses and empty net goals kind of thing. It kills you."
The team is ready to get back home to Edmonton and regroup.
"It'll be nice to get home, get some rest and get fired up for Saturday," said Hall. "It wasn't how we wanted this road trip to go by any means. It's nice to just go home, regroup a little bit and make sure we finish off our last two games before the Christmas break good."