Oilers surge too little too late

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

DENVER - It's too little too late, but it sure beats what we saw before - way too little all the time.

The Oilers recent surge won't propel them into playoff contention, or even result in those meaningful games in March and April they were hoping for when the rebuild began.

In fact, their modest little warm-streak doesn't even register outside of Edmonton.

But when seven wins in 10 games comes on the heels of four wins in 25 games, and you're doing it without three of your best players, it feels like the 1979 Flyers going 35 without a loss.

"We're making a push for the playoffs," joked Ryan Jones, after the Oilers, minus Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky and Taylor Hall, scored at even strength, on the power play and shorthanded to rout the Colorado Avalanche 5-1 Saturday. "It was one of those games where top to bottom everybody played the game that we know that we can play, a hard game, taking away space from the other team, creating turnovers and letting our speed and our skill finish plays off.

"We had some guys step up in big ways."

Like Sam Gagner, who had a goal and two assists in helping the Oilers extend their curious roll and leapfrog the Ottawa Senators into 29th place.

"It's a good feeling," said Sam Gagner, who had a four-point night here last season. "I have high expectations for myself, I want to keep improving. For it to come in a win is really nice. For whatever reason, whether it's the high altitude or what, I find a way to play good here."

Edmonton's power play, a weak spot all season, put Colorado in trouble in a hurry, with Gagner making it 1-0 before they could even announce Colorado's first penalty of the game and Jones making it 2-0 on their second. Two goals on five shots appeared to break the Avalanche's already brittle spirit.

Edmonton kept coming in the second, with Shawn Horcoff scoring on a one-timer 39 seconds in and Oklahoma call-up Alex Giroux making it 4-0 with his first goal as an Oiler.

"It's all Linus, he did that whole play," grinned Giroux. "I know he's not a shooter, so I just tried to get myself open and he made a perfect pass. I was happy to get it done."

That was it for Avs goalie Brian Elliot, who's given up nine goals in just over four periods against Edmonton. When he sees the Edmonton logo, he pretty much turns the national anthem into a scoring chance.

Andrew Cogliano added some insult to the injury in the third, scoring shorthanded in the first minute. Edmonton scored on its first shot in all three periods.

"Guys are going to have to step up, come to play, and they are," said Cogliano. "Giroux played a great game for us, scored a goal, and our special teams were the difference. A couple power play goals and one on the PK.

"When you come out on the road and get a lead, don't let them back into it, you have to give credit to us, we deserve it. I think sooner or later it was going to happen, I'm glad it's happening now."

For the Avs, who've lost 15 of their last 16, life is going from bad to worse. They went from 15th to eighth and a playoff spot last year and were held up as shining proof that a young team can turn it around in one season.

Nobody's saying it anymore, now that they're back at the bottom.

"It just fell away from us," said Matt Duchene. "We tried to hold on for deep life and figure things out but we panicked a bit.

"There's the old expression, you have to lose before you learn how to win and we hope that's the case with us."

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca or Twitter.com/TYCHKOWSKI


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