Sudden impact

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

DENVER -- The Edmonton Oilers have never gone away quietly. It's just not in their nature.

Famous for always bringing their fight for a playoff spot to the final weekend of the regular season, the Oilers made sure yesterday that Colorado wasn't going to close the book on them in early February.

Knowing another loss to a divisional opponent might very well be the end of them, they kept their annual stretch drive alive with a 3-2 win that was definitely more gritty than pretty.

"That was a pretty intense hockey game for Saturday afternoon and 30 games left," centre Shawn Horcoff said of the playoff atmosphere in a game neither side could afford to lose.

THE SITUATION

"This is the situation we've put ourselves in; every game is going to be like this. We have to keep pace, we can't fall too far behind. To make up eight or 10 points with 20 games left is next to impossible."

The Avs walked away from this one thinking they deserved better, having outshot Edmonton 39-28 (19-6 in the third period), but it was the Oilers who found a way to get it done.

After weathering a major third period storm, in which they were outshot 12-0 in the first eight minutes, they scored twice in 30 seconds (Ryan Smyth at 12:49 and Shawn Horcoff at 13:19)to turn the tide in a 1-1 game.

"That was a big win," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "It was almost like a tale of a couple of games - we played really well for the first half and gave them the baton for the second half. But Rolie was outstanding. He really was the difference, he made some brilliant saves."

Netminder Dwayne Roloson liked the way his teammates fought through the adversity to win.

"We played a great game," he said. "In the first period they weren't able to generate anything, but they scored on a fluke (Brad Richardson to put the Avs up 1-0). We used to go south in situations like that, but this time we went north. Our guys battled hard."

The Oilers started the day in 10th place, two teams and six points back of a playoff spot. In other words, they were desperate. And it showed. While it wasn't a textbook performance, they scratched and clawed for the win like it was Game 6 of a playoff series.

"It felt like it," said Steve Staios. "We played with a lot of intensity. When you're going through a stretch like we are right now, to climb out of it you need a game like this."

ON THE BOARD

Ales Hemsky scored the other Edmonton goal, putting all three members of Edmonton's first line on the board. They have eight goals in the four games since being reunited.

Joe Sakic scored with 31 seconds left in regulation to close the gap to 3-2, but that's where the comeback ended.

"A win like this against a team like that is big for us," said Raffi Torres, who played 18:49, working hard.

"We played a strong team game. This is the kind of game we're going to need from everybody down the stretch."

LATE HITS ... Ladislav Smid got into his first-ever NHL fight, a tussle with Mark Rycroft. The two had 16 and 12 PIMs respectively before the bout ... C Petr Nedved returned after three games as a healthy scratch.


Videos

Photos