DENVER – Wojtek Wolski heard it from everyone from his mother to his coach – shoot more.
He took their advice and was rewarded with his first goal in nine games in the Colorado Avalanche’s 3-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. Wolski, who hadn’t scored since Jan. 16 against New Jersey, had seven shots on goal in the first two periods and finished with eight.
“I could have had a couple of more,” he said. “There were a couple of opportunities I passed up on the shot.”
He made one of them count, and it was enough for goalie Craig Anderson, who made 20 saves for his sixth shutout of the season and third against the Oilers.
Ryan Wilson and Brandon Yip also scored for Colorado, which won after losing four of its previous five games.
Wolski’s scoring drought and the team’s sudden slump prompted coach Joe Sacco to shake up his lines. He moved Wolski to the second line centred by Matt Duchene.
With 10:26 left in the second, Duchene, who moments earlier was denied on a blocker save by Jeff Deslauriers, fed Wolski with a drop pass in the right circle and Wolski trickled a shot through Deslauriers for his 17th goal of the season.
“I got a lot of chances in the last seven games but just didn’t seem to bury the puck,” Wolski said. “The recipe was getting pucks to the net and going to the net.”
It was the aggressive play Sacco was looking for from Wolski.
“Wolski’s had a lot of chances it was good to see one go in for him,” he said. “Nothing bad ever happens when you put the puck on the net.”
The Avalanche peppered Deslauriers, who finished with 39 saves.
“We should have been better out in front of him tonight,” Edmonton coach Pat Quinn said. “We failed to do it.”
The Oilers are 3-20-2 in their last 25 games.
“We compete well with some teams for a while then we disappear,” he said. “As a coach you start thinking we should have 15, 16 more wins based on how we’ve played some nights, but we don’t. That margin between winning and losing is eluding us right now. We find ways to lose, not ways to win.”
The Avalanche had plenty of opportunities to get on the board early. They had a 14-5 shots advantage and were unable to convert two power-play chances in the first period.
Colorado finally broke through on Wolski’s goal.
“Wolski and I’ve played together before. We played together a lot in training camp and we’ve had good chemistry,” Duchene said.
Edmonton turned up the pressure after that, getting seven shots on net in the final 10 minutes of the second period, but couldn’t get one past Anderson.
“When the other goalie’s playing well like he was it’s going to take a lucky bounce,” Anderson said. “My job is to make sure they don’t get one. You don’t want to be the reason you lose.”
The Oilers’ best chance came in the third period when Adam Foote went off for holding. With 12 seconds left on that man advantage, defenceman Scott Hannan was called for delay of game to give Edmonton back-to-back power plays. Shawn Horcoff had an open net but whiffed on the puck with three seconds left in the power play.
“Back-to-back penalty kills, that’s when you hold your breath a little bit,” Sacco said. “Obviously, Craig came up with some timely saves.”
Minutes later, Wilson scored his third goal of the season to seal the win.
“It was just a quick transition, I thought I had it and it just sneaked by,” Deslauriers said.
Yip added an empty-net goal.
NOTES: Edmonton is 6-26-2 when allowing the first goal. … The Avalanche have 70 points after 57 games. Last season, they finished with 69. … Avs C Ryan O’Reilly suffered a bruised foot in the third period and did not return. He will be evaluated Sunday.