SUN Hockey Pool

A hard day's night

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

DENVER -- They straggled into the Pepsi Center bleary-eyed, beat up and without Ethan Moreau, Jason Smith and Michael Peca.

If ever the Edmonton Oilers, who didn't hit their pillows until 3 a.m. after flying into Colorado following Monday's 6-5 shootout win over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, had an excuse to phone one in, this was it.

Facing long odds were the Oilers - not that anybody was betting on the game - but they didn't lean on built-in excuses against the Colorado Avalanche last night. Not with the Avs just three points back in Western Conference standings. Not with a respite, the Olympic break, in sight.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH

Lots of try, though, wasn't nearly good enough as the Avs parlayed disallowed goals by Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky and some opportunistic offence to a 5-2 win over the weary visitors.

No points for effort.

"Sometimes you need breaks and tonight we got a couple where goals were called off," said Alex Tanguay, who had a three-point night. "We took advantage of it.

"They're a good hockey team. The way everybody has been playing, we're probably going to be going down to the wire."

The Oilers emptied the tank after a long night against the Mighty Ducks, but when Smyth had a goal that would have given the Oilers a 2-1 lead in the second period disallowed at 9:22 and Tanguay put the Avs ahead less than two minutes later, this one turned.

Rob Blake got the winner with just 13 ticks left in the second period when he sifted a slapshot from the blueline past Mike Morrison to make it 3-1 in a wacky one that featured three video reviews of goals.

'TWO BIG HOLES'

"Injuries play a part in seasons for every team," said Smyth, who came out on the wrong end of his review after having a very similar call go his way against Anaheim. "Obviously, with Ethan and Michael out, those are two big holes for us in terms of leadership and experience.

"That's where everybody has to pick it up collectively. You can't replace guys like that, but you have to find a way to do it collectively and just fight through it."

Easier said than done.

The Avs had eight shots on the board before the Oilers took their first at David Aebischer 10:10 into this tilt, but got nothing as Morrison, 7-0-0 on the road coming in, had all the answers.

Colorado got no sniff until Milan Hejduk, back after missing a game with a bad neck, blew a one-timer past Morrison 2:43 into the second after ref Shane Heyer stiffed the Oilers with a cheap too-many-men call.

When Heyer pinched Colorado's Kurt Sauer for tripping, the Oilers made the even-up call count as Jarret Stoll pounded a slapshot past Aebischer to make it 1-1. Then it got goofy.

After Smyth got the thumbs-down in the review and Tanguay made it a two-goal swing with his goal, the Avs had what appeared to be the 4-1 goal by Joe Sakic called off in the third, even though it appeared Morrison gloved his shot behind the plane of the goal line.

Not long after, the third replay took what looked like the 3-2 goal away from Hemsky after Patrice Brisebois knocked the net off its moorings with his skate a split second before the puck crossed the goal line. No cigar.

Radek Dvorak cut it to 3-2, but the Avs waltzed away on goals by Andrew Brunette and Brett McLean.

"For most of the game we were in the game," Stoll said. "We wanted to have a chance and we had a chance.

"They did a good job capitalizing on their chances. Give them credit.

"There could have been a lot of excuses for our team tonight, but we're not going to use any of them. We didn't find a way to get two points."


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