Gagner leads Oilers’ rout of Avalanche

DENVER (AP) — After four straight overtime games, the Edmonton
Oilers didn’t leave this one to chance.

Sam Gagner had his first career hat trick and added an assist,
and Ales Kotalik had a goal and three assists to help the
Edmonton Oilers beat the Colorado Avalanche, 8-1, on Thursday

The 19-year-old Gagner, who had 10 goals coming into the game,
and Fernando Pisani scored 1:04 apart in the second period to
turn a close game into a blowout. Eight of Edmonton’s previous
11 games had been decided by one goal.

“We’ve been in a few games this year when we’ve gotten leads and
took our foot off the pedal and squandered leads,” Gagner said.
“That was a big focus for us – once we got the lead, to keep on
going. We did a great job of that tonight.”

Ethan Moreau, Shawn Horcoff and Sheldon Souray also scored for
Edmonton, tied with Nashville for seventh place in the Western
Conference. The Predators lost, 2-1, in a shootout at San Jose
on Thursday night.

“You always watch (other scores) after you win,” Oilers coach
Craig MacTavish said. “When you lose, you don’t check it.
Tonight, we’ll be watching the out-of-town scoreboard.”

While the Oilers took a step toward securing a playoff spot, the
Avalanche moved closer to being eliminated from postseason
contention in record fashion. It was their most-lopsided
regular-season home loss since moving from Quebec to Denver in

“One word: Ugly,” Colorado forward Ian Laperriere said. “It’s
embarrassing. I’m sick to my stomach.”

The game was actually tied at 1 until Horcoff scored midway
through the first period. It was all Edmonton from there as the
Oilers blitzed Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj for six more goals
on 16 shots. Budaj had allowed eight goals in his previous five
starts combined.

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“We haven’t had any of those (blowouts), really all year long,”
MacTavish said. “We played pretty smart when we got the lead.
We’ve been guilty of not managing the situation, not managing
the score.”

Down, 4-1, after two periods, the Avalanche had a chance to stay
in the game with an early power play in the third, but Edmonton
goalie Dwayne Roloson came up with some nice saves to keep
Colorado at bay. Roloson, who extended his franchise record by
starting his 26th straight game, made 16 of his 26 saves in the
third period.

Kotalik, Gagner and Souray then combined for four goals in the
final 12 minutes. Gagner got his hat trick with 2:40 remaining.

“Obviously a pretty good feeling, especially when it comes in a
win and we’re fighting for points,” Gagner said. “We’ve been on
the wrong side of (a blowout), so it’s a pretty good feeling.”

Cody McLeod scored for Colorado, which played without defensemen
Adam Foote (head), Ruslan Salei (foot) and Daniel Tjarnqvist
(head) and forwards Paul Stastny (foot) and Darcy Tucker (back).

Avalanche coach Tony Granato was not about to use injuries as an
excuse for the worst performance of the season.

“From the drop of the puck all the way through the last second
of the game, we didn’t play well,” Granato said. “We had a lot
of passengers tonight.”