SUN Hockey Pool

Digging out of Avalanche

The Oilers celebrate Ales Hemsky's empty-net goal against the Avalanche on Wednesday. (Sun...

The Oilers celebrate Ales Hemsky's empty-net goal against the Avalanche on Wednesday. (Sun Media/Amber Bracken)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

It wasn't so much a battle of the backups between Jeff Deslauriers and Peter Budaj last night, but rather a couple of backups who were battling the puck.

Fortunately for Deslauriers, Edmonton's cavalry was better.

They rattled off three straight goals to bail out their goalie and overcome a 4-2 deficit to beat the visiting Avalanche 6-4.

It was a gritty comeback if there ever was one. The Oilers were down 4-2 late in the second and everything was going wrong. They had just given up two quick goals, they weren't getting any goaltending and they were down to nine forwards after Mike Comrie came up sick, Zack Stortini had to sit for 17 minutes for instigating and Ethan Moreau left the game after the Ryan Wilson elbow that lead to the instigating penalty.

Two more minors after that put them in an even deeper hole.

It looked bleak.

But they fought back and Deslauriers found his game in the third, giving the 9-10-3 Oilers their first win in five starts.

Speaking of starts, many expected Nikolai Khabibulin would get the start in this one, given how badly Edmonton (2-8-2 in their previous 12) needed to stop the bleeding, but head coach Pat Quinn had to start thinking big picture.

Khabibulin had started 18 of Edmonton's first 21 games and faced the third-most shots in the NHL (602), while Deslauriers was collecting rust again.

"Khabibulin wants the puck a lot, but at the same time, I want to give him enough (time off) that when it's playoff time he's not worn down or worn out," said Quinn. "And we want to give our developing goaltender enough games so that should anything bad happen he's ready to play.

"We have to pay really strict attention to this. Young goalies have to play, that's how they learn their craft. We have to be mindful that we're giving him enough action that he continues to develop."

So Deslauriers got the nod. But Colorado got the lead.

Despite two Edmonton power plays in the first period, they still came out of it trailing after Milan Hejduk scored twice to make it 1-0 and 2-1. Shawn Horcoff scored the Oilers goal on an Ales Hemsky rebound. Falling behind early has been a bad path for the Oilers, who came into the game 1-8-1 when their opponent scores first.

Gilbert Brule scored on the first shot of the second period, a long wrister that Budaj should have had to tie it, but

David Jones and Kyle Cuminskey scored on a couple of weak ones and it was 4-2 Avs. The shots were 20-9 Edmonton at the time.

Three straight Oilers penalties (Stortini for instigating at 12:18, Sheldon Souray for roughing at 13:19 and Patrick O'Sullivan for trupping at 15)00, gave Colorado a grand chance to put this one away, but some clutch penalty killing left Edmonton alive to fight another period.

Especially after Sam Gagner's rebound goal to make it 4-3 at 19:44. It was Gagner's first goal in nearly a month (Oct. 22) and it set the stage for a big finish.

Ryan Potulny squared it on the power play at 2:46 and Patrick O'Sullivan made it 5-4 at 11:07. Ales Hemsky sealed it with an empty netter.

Late hits ...

Without Comrie, who still can't shake the effects of his recent flu, the Oilers played one forward short, double shifting guys with Gagner and Andrew Cogliano, and went with seven defencemen.

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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