SUN Hockey Pool

Hemsky lifts Oil over Avs

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

EDMONTON -- You could almost hear them paraphrasing Martin Luther King from the bench: "Three at last, three at last, thank heaven almighty, we are three at last!"

After weeks and weeks of chasing, looking like they'd never get near enough to even smell eighth place's exhaust fumes, the Oilers are as close as they've ever been to making their astounding playoff drive a reality.

Yesterday's wild, heart-stopping 7-5 victory over Colorado, the team they're trying to catch, leaves Edmonton three points back with six games to go -- including one more against the Avalanche.

A couple more wins and they'll be paraphrasing Al Michaels: "Do you believe in miracles?"

"We have to make sure we're ready because these final six games are going to be a battle," said centre Kyle Brodziak after the matinee smoke had cleared from sold-out Rexall Place. "But everyone in here feels it's definitely within reach now."

For that, they can give thanks to Ales Hemsky, who picked them up and put them on his shoulders with one of the most electrifying games the 24-year-old star has played.

"He had a special night tonight," said Craig MacTavish following the game.

"It looked like he was playing the game at a different level than everybody else. He just played an incredible game.

"It was high, high entertainment value watching him tonight. Every time he had the puck on his stick, he was creating something. Beating guys one on one, driving wide. He made 15 spectacular plays."

Dangling and dancing all afternoon, Hemsky settled for three assists, but could have had six or seven the way he set up linemates.

"It was fun game for us," Hemsky said, adding he knew he needed to deliver with the season on the line.

"You always put pressure on yourself. We know how important this was for us. It was a great win for us, we battled hard."

Hemsky set up Dustin Penner for a one-timer 50 seconds after the opening faceoff to make it 1-0, set up Sam Gagner with a behind-the-back pass to make it 2-0 and Gagner again for the eventual game winner late in the third period.

"He was unbelievable tonight," said Gagner, who was named the first star by CBC, but deferred the honour to its rightful owner.

"It was a lot of fun playing with him tonight. He made things easy out there."

Easy is one way of putting it. Hair pulling, nail biting, heart attack waiting to happen is another. Up 4-1 after 40 minutes, the Oilers looked like they had it in the bag.

Then Colorado scored three straight in the first 4:16 of the third period to tie the game.

"It was definitely a scary feeling," said Brodziak. "But we call a time out, and the very next shift, we come out and get a big goal (Marc Pouliot) and then a insurance one after that (Gagner). We did a good job of responding."

But the Avs had all in Rexall clutching their chests again when they pulled to 6-5 at 17:18. Marty Reasoner finally sealed it when his missed shot at an empty net counted as an automatic goal when he was hooked from behind.


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