Oilers dead in Denver

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

DENVER -- It was pretty much a sequel to the movie Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead.

It starred the sleepwalking Edmonton Oilers and is tentatively titled: Things We Blew in Denver When We Were Dead Tired.

An early lead and a chance to give themselves a small gasp of breathing room in the noose-tight Northwest Division all fell by the wayside last night as the Oilers ran out of gas in a 4-1 loss to the Avalanche.

LONG, TIRING JOURNEY

After dragging their butts into their hotel at 2:45 a.m., a little over 16 hours before their fifth game in a fifth different city in eight nights, they were running on fumes.

"We were predictably lethargic,'' said head coach Craig MacTavish, whose club seemed to use up the last of its reserves in Thursday's third-period comeback against Minnesota.

"It's disappointing because I thought the game was there for us early. They didn't look like they had a lot more jump, early, but they got going a little bit as the game progressed.

"It looked like we were going to get an opportunity to win a game you don't normally win.''

The Oilers started well enough, going up 1-0 on a fluke from Marc Antoine Pouliot late in the first, but it was all Avs after that, with Milan Hejduk, John-Michael Liles, Wojtek Wolski and Tyler Arnason scoring for the Avs.

"We were a little bit behind, a half-second here and there, and that's huge in this game today,'' said Jarret Stoll.

"It opened up some big holes and they were snapping the puck around pretty good. We spent a lot of time in our zone, and that tires you out, too.

"But everyone has to battle through that schedule, everybody has to be stronger mentally than physically. Yeah, we got in late and played Thursday, but that's when you have to think the game and use your head. We weren't good, weren't smart.''

No, they weren't.

"Our team played great,'' said Avs goalie Peter Budaj. "(Edmonton) only had 18 shots and not many of them were good.''

And now the Northwest, where three points separate first and fifth, gets even tighter, if that was possible. The Avs jumped from fifth to second after winning three straight for the first time all season.

"We haven't had a stretch where we've put wins together in a row at any point,'' said Colorado coach Joel Quenneville, whose club plays a return engagement in Edmonton Tuesday.

"We feel we have a chance of getting close, getting first in our division (by Christmas).''

ROAD WOES CONTINUE

The Oilers, 12-4-1 at home, dropped to 5-9-1 on the road. They're still third in the conference, but have a slim, two-point lead on Colorado and the Wild for the division lead.

Ales Hemsky, who returned to the Edmonton lineup after eight games on the shelf with a shoulder injury, did so rather inauspiciously, giving the puck away for a shorthanded breakway in the first period and going minus-1 on the night.


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