DENVER - The nine-game road trip started well before lagging in the middle with a five-game winless skid but the Oilers made up for it by finishing up strong.
After becoming the first team in the NHL this season to beat the Blackhawks at home in regulation, the Oilers did what Chicago couldn't do and snapped Colorado's five-game home winning streak in a decisive 4-0 victory.
"It was our most complete game of the season," said Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger after the game. "Finishing our road trip like this is really a very good signal from the team to be able to dig this out after 17 days and nine games. We really felt we stayed patient. We stuck with our principles that we've been working on so hard as a team that everybody's buying into really strongly."
"Our goaltending was outstanding," Krueger continued. "Beginning with Devan, all the way through the team, they decided to stay in the hunt with these two wins here. Devan was certainly a leader here tonight. His positional play overall was really excellent."
Dubnyk felt that the team overall played well in front of him.
"It was probably one of our best full 60-minute games of the year. We were working hard, we were doing all the right things we were talking about for the whole game regardless of what the score was and how the game was going. I thought we did a great job when they started to get momentum, we stuck to what we needed to do and calm the storm on the road and it really made a difference in the game," said Dubnyk.
The Oilers finished the longest road trip in franchise history with a 3-4-2 record and after being shut out in back-to-back games in Detroit and Nashville they have now scored 10 in their last two. Krueger pointed to the team's improved five-on-five play as a key.
"Much more net pressure. Much more discipline in bringing the puck from non-scoring areas and having bodies in the scoring areas to finish them off," stated the head coach.
After an opening period that saw a close-to-even number of chances on both sides -- including Taylor Hall fanning on a one-timer from a great pass by Ryan Whitney about eight minutes in -- the Oilers took advantage of an Avs miscue to strike for the game's first goal.
Shawn Horcoff skated up the middle on a one-on-one with Gabriel Landeskog the lone man back for the Avalanche but Landeskog fell down, giving Horcoff a clear-cut breakway. Horcoff made no mistake, firing it five-hole past Varlamov to make it 1-0 for Edmonton with 8:40 to play in the period.
With 3:42 remaining in the first, Ryan Whitney blasted a shot from the left point on goal. It was stopped by Varlamov but Sam Gagner was perched right in the crease to picked up the rebound and put it in to make it a two-goal game.
"The shot with Magnus in front and off to the side after Yak makes a great play to him, everybody involved and that's the key. Five guys involved in the play in the offensive zone," said Krueger.
Horcoff took the first penalty of the game, giving Colorado a power play advantage about a minute after the Oilers' 2-0 goal but the Avs weren't able to generate much in the way of offence on it.
Shots on goal after one period were 13 to 9 in favour of Colorado.
Devan Dubnyk made a nice save on Aaron Palushaj early in the second. Palushaj skated into the Oilers zone with the puck then cut to the net before firing a quick wrist shot from close range that was kicked away.
Mike Brown drew a penalty seven minutes into the middle frame to put Edmonton on the power play for the first time on the night. Ryan O'Byrne held him up in the Avs zone.
With Colorado swarming around the Oilers net, Dubnyk made a great pad save off Shane O'Brien to keep it a two-goal game just past the period's midway point.
Magnus Paajarvi drove to the net and fired a shot on goal with 7:44 to play in the second. He then waited until the puck dropped low enough before batting it out of the air and in to give Edmonton a three-goal lead.
Shots on goal after two periods were 26 to 21 for the Avalanche.
The Avalanche looked to have tied the game near the four-minute mark on a shot from the left point by Jan Hejda that made its way past a screened Devan Dubnyk but the referees waived it off immediately, citing a player in the crease. Landeskog was stationed right at the top of the blue paint.
P.A. Parenteau headed to the box with 15:05 to go in the third after the Avs were caught with too many men on the ice.
Late in the ensuing power play, Taylor Hall did some great work along the boards and fed the puck to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the slot. RNH made no mistake, rifling it past Varlamov for the goal to make it 4-0 Oilers.