|Oilers players and fans celebrate following Dustin Penner's game-winning goal in Sunday's season-opener vs. the Avalanche. Photo by Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club.|
The evening began with a celebration of three decades and concluded with the celebration of a third goal as the Edmonton Oilers earned a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in the opening game of their 2008-09 campaign Sunday night.
After an inspiring opening ceremony -- including historical highlights and player introductions -- the Oilers and Avs performed six minutes of uninspiring hockey. But at that point, Colorado's Peter Stastny took a high-sticking penalty and Edmonton went on the offensive.
Halfway through the powerplay, Ales Hemsky fed Shawn Horcoff at the corner of the crease, and the Oilers center beat netminder Peter Budaj to score the club's first goal on their second shot of the season.
The Avs nearly tied things up two minutes later when Joe Sakic -- and the puck -- plowed through Mathieu Garon and into the net, but goaltender interference kept the goal off the clock.
The visitors soon benefited from their first powerplay when Zack Stortini sat out two minutes for charging, but the Avs were again unable to tally an equalizer despite assuming an 8-3 shot lead.
The powerplay tables swung back in the other direction before the end of the period, but the Oilers were unable to increase their lead and concluded 20 minutes with a 1-0 lead.
Comments from Erik Cole after the first period.
Three minutes into the middle frame, Stortini tangled with Ian Laperriere just inside the Oilers zone. But Stortini wouldn't be alone in the penalty box for long as Sam Gagner (holding) and Marc Pouliot (Oilers bench minor for too many men) took turns sitting beside the enforcer.
Although the Avs were unable to score on the powerplays, they found a way to break the 20-shot mark and beat Garon in the latter half of the period.Though the Oilers goalie stopped an initial shot and the first rebound, a steady stream of Avs snipers surging up the slot proved too much for Garon and Sakic scored on the onslaught at 11:15.
With the game tied 1-1, Steve Staios and Cody McLeod dropped their gloves for a one-on-one battle, earning fighting majors for their efforts. The fight had little effect on the score, however, and the Oilers concluded two periods tied 1-1 but trailing 25 shots to 12.
Tom Gilbert after the second period.
As the Avalanche toed the 30-shot mark early in the third, the Oilers struggled to get back ahead. But six minutes into the period, the club descended on Budaj and got their go-ahead goal. After bringing the puck around the net, Dustin Penner released a sharp-angle shot that trickled through Budaj's legs and across the goal-line to put Edmonton up 2-1.
The home lead wouldn't last long, however. With exactly 10 minutes left in regulation, an Oilers skater was accused of covering up the puck in Garon's crease, resulting in a penalty shot for the Avs. Milan Hejduk was awarded with the opportunity and the winger capitalized to tie the game 2-2.
The game seemed destined for overtime, but destiny -- and more importantly, Budaj -- didn't anticipate Penner. With 5.4 seconds on the clock, the towering forward caught a piece of Ethan Moreau's shot from the point and redirected it into the net to secure a 3-2 win for the Oilers and a winning start to their 2008-09 season.