DENVER – 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 night.
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 post-season contention in record fashion. It was their most-lopsided regular-season home loss since moving from Quebec to Denver in 1995.
“One word: Ugly,” Colorado forward Ian Laperriere said. “It’s embarrassing. I’m sick to my stomach.”
The game was actually tied 1-1 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.
“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 defencemen 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.”
Notes: Horcoff’s goal gave him 331 career points and moved him into a tie with MacTavish for 13th on the Edmonton career list. … Gagner extended his points streak to five games (two goals, three assists). … Avalanche rookie Chris Stewart sustained a head injury in the second period and did not return. … Edmonton is 20-0-1 when leading after two periods. … T.J. Galardi, recalled from the minors, made his NHL debut for Colorado. He was a minus-3 in about 15 minutes of ice time.