EDMONTON - A rare three-man advantage allowed the Colorado Avalanche to escape Edmonton with a win they felt fortunate to earn.
Darcy Tucker scored the tying goal with 10.7 seconds in regulation and added the winner in the fifth round of the shootout as the Avalanche rallied for a 3-2 win over the Oilers. Ryan Smyth also scored in regulation for the Avalanche (8-8-0), who have won three straight following a five-game losing streak.
The Avalanche knew they were fortunate to be able to come back and win the game in the fashion they did.
"We didn't play our best game tonight," Tucker said. "They played a pretty good hockey game for the most part and we just found a way to win it and sometimes you just need to find ways to win games when you haven't played your best.
"We got some positives out of a game like this. The fact that we did come back and found a way to win when we didn't play our best is obviously great for us."
Colorado head coach Tony Granato credited goaltender Peter Budaj for giving the team the chance to bounce back.
"We hung around - which was good - and most of the reason we hung around was because our goalie made the saves," he said.
Robert Nilsson and Liam Reddox replied for the Oilers (8-7-2), who have dropped two in a row and four of the last six.
With the Oilers nursing a 2-1 lead late in the third period, the Avs were given a golden opportunity following penalties to Fernando Pisani and Ethan Moreau. With Budaj on the bench, the Avs had a 6-on-3 advantage and made it count, as Tucker redirected a point shot past Oilers netminder Dwayne Roloson to send the game to extra time.
Following a scoreless overtime, Wojtek Wolski and Sam Gagner traded goals in the first round of the shootout. Budaj and Roloson both stopped the next three shooters they faced before Tucker gave Colorado the lead with a shot that eluded Roloson between the legs.
Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton's fifth shooter, had a chance to extend the shootout but fired a harmless shot that Budaj redirected with his right pad. Prior to Tucker's tying goal, Horcoff had a golden opportunity to put the game away, but his shot at the empty net caromed off the leg of defenceman Brett Clark and bounded wide.
Despite his late-game gaffe, Horcoff escaped the wrath of Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish
"He had a good, solid game," he said. "I don't pin the loss on him, that's for sure. It would have been nice if he had ended it one-on-one with Clark but it's just one of those things. It's not as if he was casual and not trying to end it."
Clark admitted he was fortunate to stop the shot.
"It was a desperation play," he said. "I turned it over early in that shift and I knew he was coming and I know if I run at him he puts it right in an empty net so I just went back and played goal."
MacTavish was frustrated at losing the game late after his team answered a challenge to pick up their play following Thursday's 5-2 loss to Toronto.
"It's probably momentum neutral when you play well but lose the game at the end," he said. "I thought we had lots of opportunities late in the game to widen the lead. You have to give Budaj a lot of credit, he made some great saves. That's a more responsible, intelligent game than we have played in a while."
Roloson expressed frustration at his team having wasted a solid effort.
"It was unfortunate that they were able to get one late," Roloson added. "Especially because we played well in that game. That was probably one of the best games we have played defensively all year."
Edmonton struck first just shy of seven minutes into the game. Tom Gilbert's power-play point shot struck Nilsson in front, but the forward grabbed the loose puck and hooked it past Budaj.
Colorado evened the score four minutes later as Smyth crashed the Oilers net, sliding his own rebound under Roloson while being knocked onto his backside. It was Smyth's first career goal against his former team.
The Oilers regained the lead seven minutes into the second period as Reddox, playing in just his second NHL game, scored his first NHL goal, grabbing the puck from behind the Avalanche net and then chipping it over Budaj's glove.
"It is unbelievable," said the Whitby, Ont., native. "I was pretty zoned in. I saw it coming off the boards and just tried to lift it up.
"I can't even describe the feeling."
The Oilers head back on the road, travelling to Detroit to play the Red Wings on Monday. The Avalanche conclude a three-game road trip in Calgary on Tuesday.
Notes: Colorado captain Joe Sakic (back) missed his second game in a row tonight but may be ready to return to the lineup on Tuesday. The Avs were also without centre Ben Guite, who was banged up in practice this week Forwards Dustin Penner and Kyle Brodziak were healthy scratches for the Oilers. ... Saturday marked the 1,000th regular-season game for Colorado since relocating to Denver from Quebec in 1995-96.