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RECAP: Avalanche 5, Oilers 1

by Ryan Frankson / Edmonton Oilers

DENVER, CO – Semyon Varlamov stopped all but one of the 40 shots he faced as the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Oilers 5-1 on Saturday night in Denver.

Despite entering their four-game road trip riding a five-game win streak and extending it to six in a row on Monday against the Boston Bruins, the Oil finished the trip with three straight losses, falling to 14-18-2 on the season. The Avs, meanwhile, recorded their fifth-straight victory.

Edmonton was defeated despite outshooting Colorado 40-29 on the night.

“Varlamov played well the whole night,” Coach Todd McLellan said. “We probably had enough offence to be in the game. That’s on the forwards for trying to finish around the net. We didn’t get pucks up on him at all in and around the blue paint. He was there the whole night right to the bitter end, and he made some tremendous saves.”

“The MO on Varlamov was to get the puck up into the top half of the net, and it seemed like a lot of our chances we fed into his pads,” Taylor Hall added. “It just didn’t work out tonight. I thought we played hard and got a lot of really good efforts. It’s just the way it goes sometimes… We’ve got to find ways to turn ‘B’ chances into ‘A’ chances. It didn’t happen tonight.”

“We created more than enough chances… maybe we weren’t focused to bear down to score on those chances,” Leon Draisaitl echoed. “We’ve got to give credit to (Varlamov). He played a really good game and we couldn’t beat him.”

As good as Varlamov was between the Colorado pipes, the Oilers know they can’t win too many games surrendering five goals.

“Are we expecting to score six on him? Not a chance,” McLellan said. “Even on his bad nights we’re not getting six on him. We gave up way too many to have a win… We got what we deserved.”

The Oilers got a prime opportunity to start strong as the Avs took a too-many-men penalty just 54 seconds into the game. It was the shorthanded squad that capitalized on the situation, however, as an Oilers pass back to the point eluded Justin Schultz, sending Blake Comeau in on a breakaway. Comeau picked the top corner on Nilsson just 18 seconds into the penalty for his fifth of the season.

An impressive Oilers streak came to an end with the Comeau tally, as they had gone 33 straight games to start the season without allowing a shorthanded goal. Edmonton is now among a large group of teams, nearly half the League, who have only allowed one SHG on the campaign. The Oil have also scored one shorthanded goal this year.

Special teams continued to be the theme of the opening frame, as Tyson Barrie extended the home side’s lead to 2-0 with a power-play goal at the 16:49 mark. Barrie launched a wrist shot from the point that got past Nilsson thanks to a screen in front by Matt Duchene. The PPG was Barrie’s fourth of the season, assisted by Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog.

The first period had a frenetic pace as the Oilers and Avs traded prime chances throughout the frame, with Edmonton finishing the opening 20 with a 13-9 shot advantage. Varlamov stopped every shot he faced in the first, with Benoit Pouliot and Draisaitl each having point-blank opportunities denied. Hall and Draisaitl combined for six of the 13 shots in the first.

The Oilers continued to dominate shots in the middle frame, finishing 40 minutes ahead 27-21, but not one of them could get past Varlamov. On the flip side, another Avs d-man lit the lamp as Nick Holden put a point shot on net following a face-off win and it eluded Nilsson to make it 3-0 Colorado at the 14:26 mark.

The best Oilers chance of the second period came in the final seconds as Hall pounced on a rebound, but Varlamov slid across the crease to make a pad save on the backhand attempt. Hall was visibly frustrated by the unsuccessful opportunity, but he gave credit where it was due, giving the Avs goalie a tap on his pads for the highlight-reel save.

The Hall-Draisaitl-Purcell line finally converted just 2:58 into the third, spoiling what was looking like it could be another Varlamov shutout. The Oilers got on the board as Hall carried the puck into the offensive zone and made a nifty drop pass to Andrej Sekera, who rifled a wrist shot top shelf to make it 3-1. Hall got his team-leading 36th point while Sekera scored his fourth goal and second of the road trip.

“They played very well,” McLellan said of 4-29-16, who combined to generate 16 shots on goal. “They were aggressive. I thought they held onto pucks in the offensive zone and they didn’t give up much defensively. But as we all know… one line and a couple of other players doesn’t get it done.”

The Avs regained their three-goal cushion at the 7:05 mark of the third as former Battle of Alberta nemesis Jarome Iginla went five-hole on Nilsson all alone in front for his 12th of the season and 598th of his impressive career. Jack Skille beat Nilsson with a short-side wrist shot on a two-on-one rush at 16:31 to complete the Colorado onslaught.

Next up, the Winnipeg Jets visit Edmonton on Monday at 7pm MT, leading into a four-day holiday break. The Oilers will be looking to secure their seventh consecutive win on home ice.

The Oil don’t get to settle in at home, though, as they're right back on the road when action resumes, visiting their two Western Canadian rivals, the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday and the Calgary Flames on Sunday. The back-to-back weekend will be a pivotal one considering the tight Pacific Division standings.
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