DENVER – In the midst of a tough season, the Edmonton Oilers are finishing strong.
The Colorado Avalanche? Well, they dropped a game they could ill afford to lose.
Defenceman Justin Schultz broke a second-period tie and Richard Bachman stopped 29 shots, helping Edmonton snap a five-game road losing streak by beating Colorado 4-1 on Monday night.
Brandon Davidson scored his first NHL goal, while Nikita Nikitin and Taylor Hall scored empty-net goals 32 seconds apart to help the Oilers capture their first game away from home since Feb. 24 at Minnesota. Andrew Miller added three assists.
“We’re on a little bit of a streak here and I’m glad I can be a part of it and contribute in any way possible,” said Davidson, whose team has won three in a row for the first time since capturing four straight in October. “It’s exciting times here in the Oil country.”
Not so much in Avalanche country as the team’s post-season chances grew slimmer. The Avs trail Winnipeg by eight points for the last wild-card spot in the Western Conference with six games remaining.
Colorado coach Patrick Roy isn’t ready to concede anything just yet.
“We are going to believe in ourselves until it’s over,” Roy said. “I’m going to push and that’s all I’m thinking. It’s the way I am. I like to think the players will do the same.”
This certainly wasn’t the Avalanche’s best effort.
“From the get-go, it didn’t feel like we were ready to compete, and to compete hard enough to win a hockey game,” captain Gabriel Landeskog said.
“It doesn’t matter where a team is in the standings or who you’re playing, if they’re out-competing you and working harder than you, they’re ultimately going to beat you. That’s what happened here tonight and it’s unacceptable.”
Trailing by a goal, Colorado pulled Semyon Varlamov with around 2:25 remaining. But Nikitin launched a shot from his own blue line that found the empty net. Hall scored right after to seal the win.
Bachman frustrated the Avalanche all game, making one brilliant save after another, including one with his head that knocked off his mask.
This has been quite a stretch for Bachman. He shut out Dallas — his former team — last week and now beat Colorado. Bachman played down the road at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.
“Love Denver. It’s a great city,” Bachman said. “It’s special to come here and play here and play in this building and be able to get a win.”
With his first-period goal, Ryan O’Reilly has at least a point in a career-best eight straight games. He’s scored five times and dished out eight assists during the stretch.
Schultz took advantage of a miscue by defenceman Nate Guenin, who struggled to corral a loose puck. Schultz sped by him and beat Varlamov with a backhand to give the Oilers a 2-1 lead at 15:28 of the second period.
Bachman was exceptional in the middle period, stopping a point-blank shot by Tyson Barrie, kicking away an attempt from Landeskog and even using his helmet to stop Matt Duchene’s hard liner.
Davidson gave the Oilers an early lead when he pinched in from the blue line and tapped in a shot off a cross-ice pass from Anton Lander. Davidson was recalled from Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League last Thursday. He had four goals in 52 games with the Barons this season.
O’Reilly tied the game at 13:18 of the opening period on a play he helped orchestrate. Leading a rush up the ice, O’Reilly cruised up the right boards before dropping the puck back to a trailing Alex Tanguay, who took a slap shot that bounced off Bachman’s pads. O’Reilly was there to knock in the rebound for his 15th goal of the season.
NOTES: The Oilers continue their three-game road swing Wednesday in Anaheim. … Mark Fayne (shoulder), Andrew Ference (concussion) and Boyd Gordon (back) were all scratches. … Avalanche D Erik Johnson (knee) will practice Tuesday. Roy said a decision will be made after that about when he will play. Johnson has been out since late January. … Colorado starts a three-game road swing Wednesday at San Jose. … Colorado didn’t commit a penalty for a second time this season.