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Sakic's late goal helps Avalanche beat Edmonton in a shootout, 5-4

Avalanche Joe Sakic, front, scores a goal against Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson in the shootout. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/David Zalubowski

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Avalanche Joe Sakic, front, scores a goal against Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson in the shootout. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/David Zalubowski

DENVER - If the Colorado Avalanche make the playoffs, they will have their captain to thank.

Joe Sakic forced overtime by scoring with 5.9 seconds left in regulation, and then added the decisive tally in a shootout as the Avalanche strengthened their playoff position with a 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night.

The Avalanche are seventh in the Western Conference with 90 points, four ahead of Nashville and Vancouver, who are battling for the eighth and final spot. Edmonton is two points behind the Canucks and Predators.

The Oilers would be closer if it wasn't for Sakic, who has twice forced overtime with late goals. In Vancouver on Feb. 27, he scored with 15 seconds left in regulation, and then scored the only goal in the shootout of that game. Friday was similar, and he came through again.

"It was a battle in front of the net, puck pops free and you are fortunate to get some wood on it," Sakic said.

The Avalanche outshot the Oilers 5-1 in overtime but couldn't score. In the shootout, Wojtek Wolski scored first and Robert Nilsson tied it for Edmonton. Sakic made it 2-1, Jose Theodore made a save on Sam Gagner, and Milan Hejduk clinched the win with a wrister.

"The point was like a win, and capping it off with the extra point was gigantic," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said.

Tom Gilbert had a goal and an assist, and Gagner, Jarret Stoll and Curtis Glencross also scored to give Edmonton a 4-3 lead heading into the third period. Colorado had a tough time getting one by Dwayne Roloson, who made 11 of his 32 saves in the third period.

But Sakic rescued his team after he nearly tied it with less than five minutes left with a shot that hit the crossbar. He didn't miss with the Avalanche's last gasp. Colorado pulled Theodore with 1:15 left in regulation and kept the play in Edmonton's zone.

Peter Forsberg got the puck behind the Oilers net and threw a pass in front. Sakic roofed a shot for his 12th goal of the season.

"An amazing goal, a huge goal, a timely goal," Quenneville said.

The Oilers, seconds away from their sixth win in eight games, couldn't cover everyone in front.

"It was a mad dash to the net, and we have four or five guys there," said Stoll, whose team is 15-4 in shootouts this season. "We knew what they were going to do there, but we couldn't find the puck. We wanted to chip it out of there, but the wrong team found the puck and they scored."

Andrew Brunette posted two goals and an assist, Forsberg had three assists for the second straight game, and Theodore had 27 saves for Colorado, which has three games left. The Avalanche still have a shot at the Northwest Division title.

"We knew if we won this one we put ourselves in pretty good shape," Sakic said. "We still have to go on the road and play well. And hopefully we can get two points out of the game at Minnesota (on Sunday) and make a race out of the division, as well."

The Oilers, who have three games left, have work to do if they want to make the post-season for the first time since reaching the 2006 Stanley Cup finals before losing to Carolina in Game 7. They play at Calgary on Saturday night

"There is not much we can do, we have to prepare for another game, and quickly, too," defenceman Steve Staios said. "Maybe that is a good thing. We played a hard-fought, tough game tonight, and it's disappointing, but it is up to everyone in here to pick ourselves up and be ready for tomorrow."

Notes: All four Edmonton scorers notched their 13th goals of the season. ... Roloson started his eighth straight game after going 17 without a start. He is 5-3 in that stretch. ... Avalanche D Adam Foote returned to the lineup after missing three games. Foote had sat out seven of 10 games due to a hip injury. ... Brunette played in his 450th straight game, the longest current streak in the NHL. ... Hejduk has five goals in four games and leads the Avalanche with 27.

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