EDMONTON – It went from being another game filled with breakdowns to what could end up being a breakout game for the Edmonton Oilers this season.
Magnus Paajarvi scored the game winner late in the contest as the Oilers overcame a 3-0 deficit to emerge with a 6-4 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.
The Oilers capped off their comeback with 1:34 remaining in the third as Ryan Smyth chipped a pass to a hard-charging Paajarvi who had a wide-open net. Jordan Eberle capped off the game with an empty-net goal.
Paajarvi was meant to be a healthy scratch but got called in to play at the last minute when Lennart Petrell took a puck to the helmet during the pre-game warm-up.
“He was probably eating hot dogs already when we pulled him in,” said Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger. “He didn’t even get a warm-up and he scores the winner.
“It was a big game for us to explode like this and get these points in regulation time.”
“I got to the rink at 7:30 (for the 8 p.m. game) and was getting ready for a workout,” Paajarvi laughed. “I got the call that I would be playing at 7:55 p.m.”
Eberle and Ales Hemsky each had two-goal games and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also scored for the Oilers (6-5-3), who have now won two of their last three.
Edmonton had 56 shots on net in the game, breaking a team-record 55 established against the old Minnesota North Stars in 1986.
“It just goes to show what shooting the puck does,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “It’s pretty cool to be a part of a record, especially being able to set one with this organization, which has some pretty tough records to beat.”
Cody McLeod, Matt Duchene, Jamie McGinn and John Mitchell responded for the Avalanche (5-7-1), who have lost four of their last five games.
“We got what we deserved tonight,” said Colorado head coach Joe Sacco. “We gave up close to 60 shots tonight, which is something we are obviously not proud of as a group. We need to make sure we respond the right way from this. Losing is losing and you are going to lose some games, but not the way that we lost tonight. It was unacceptable.”
Colorado scored just 1:22 into the game as the Oilers did a poor job clearing traffic in front of starter Devan Dubnyk, allowing McLeod to scoop up a loose puck inches in front of the Edmonton goalie and hook it into the net for an early 1-0 Avs lead.
Edmonton’s best opportunity to that point came with five minutes to play in the first period after a flurry of activity in the Colorado zone when Eberle slid a puck through the crease behind Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov.
Edmonton looked very much like it was taking over the game and then the Avs turned the momentum around in a big way with two goals in 25 seconds.
Colorado made it 2-0 on a poor goal allowed by Dubnyk as Duchene lost control of the puck while trying to do a deke on the way to the net, only to see it slide between the goalie’s legs and in with 1:14 left in the first.
With 49 seconds left it was a three-goal lead for the Avs as Duchene got it across to a wide-open McGinn on a 2-on-1.
Edmonton got one of those goals back with just 3.1 seconds left as Hemsky picked up a bouncing puck at the side of the net to score his sixth of the season on a power play.
The Oilers out-shot Colorado 23-12 in the first period and Nikolai Khabibulin came in to start the second in the Edmonton net.
Colorado made it 4-1 six minutes into the second on a power play as a deflection on shot by Mitchell had Khabibulin going the other way.
Edmonton got back into the game in a hurry with two goals in just under a minute to make it 4-3.
With four minutes to play Taylor Hall was able to feed it to Nugent-Hopkins in the slot and he was able to score just his first goal of the season to break a drought going back 24 games into last season.
Just 59 seconds later Hemsky scored his second of the game with a highlight-reel move to undress defender Shane O’Brien and then another to do the same to Varlamov.
Edmonton managed to tie up the game 4-4 nine minutes into the third period as Eberle was able to pick up a rebound and jam home the puck from behind the goal-line on a power play.
“If anything it gives our team a little confidence with our goal scoring,” Eberle said. “We haven’t been able to put the puck in the net and, especially my line, it felt like we cracked the door open in this game. It was a crazy game.”
The Avalanche return home to face the Nashville Predators on Monday. The Oilers play the third game of a five-game homestand on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings.
Notes: It was the third of five meetings between the teams this season. They split the first two, with each team winning on home ice. The teams split their six season meetings last season. . . Veterans Ryan Smyth and Ryan Whitney both returned to the Oilers lineup after being benched in the previous game against Dallas. . . Defencemen Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry were both able to play for Edmonton despite suffering minor injuries at practice earlier in the week. . . Among the missing players from the Avalanche lineup are defenceman Erik Johnson (head) and forward Gabriel Landeskog (concussion). . . Last year’s leading scorer Ryan O’Reilly continues to hold out due to a contract dispute. . . Varlamov got the start for the Avs and was backed up by Calvin Pickard, who was recalled from the AHL after Jean-Sebastien Giguere left the team for personal reasons. . . Edmonton came into the game having only scored 10 goals in its previous six games. . . Oiler forward Teemu Hartikainen left the game in the second period with a shoulder injury.