EDMONTON -- Having already lost the first game of their five-game homestand, and with a nine-game road trip on the horizon, the 11th-place Oilers could not afford to let any more points get away from them at Rexall Place.
That would explain Saturday night's desperation.
Sensing that their season might be flashing before their eyes, the Oilers got up off the canvas and fought back as hard as they have in years, scoring five straight goals in the final 24 minutes for a shocking 6-4 comeback victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
"It was so surreal," said Magnus Paajarvi, who scored the game winning goal with 1:54 left in the third period. "It was huge. Incredible. It's 4-1, then 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, 5-4 and 6-4. It was awesome."
The Oilers threw everything they had at Colorado, breaking the franchise record for shots in a regular season game (56).
"This year we've come back a lot," said Ales Hemsky, who scored twice in the win. "It's something you have to change. You will not get those games all the time. But we got this win and we showed a lot of character."
The Avs stormed out to a 3-0 lead, with Cody McLeod scoring 1:22 after the opening faceoff and Matt Duchene, Jamie McGinn adding singles late in the period.
With Rexall Place place still in shock. Ales Hemsky provided a ray of hope when he made it 3-1 with just 3.1 seconds left in the period.
Then came the fireworks. Trailing 4-1 with time running out in the second, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his first of the season at 15:59 and Hemsky added his second of the night at 16:58.
The game was right back on.
Midway through the third period, Jordan Eberle's power-play goal tied it 4-4, then Paajarvi scored the winner with 1:54 left. Jordan Eberle added an empty netter.
It was a decimated Colorado team that arrived in Edmonton, without injured players Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Wilson, Erik Johnson and Steve Downie. Goaltender J.S. Giguere is out with a personal matter and Ryan O'Reilly is still in a contract dispute with management.
"We have guys injured right now, but you can't worry about it," said Avalanche center Matt Duchene. "You just have to come in here every day and no matter who you have injured, you just have to get the job done. There are lots of other teams fighting injuries, too."
This one hurts, but they're sure as heck not going to fold their tent 13 games into the season.
"We're not feeling sorry for ourselves, we're working hard and getting better every day," Duchene said. "We're playing pretty good hockey. We have the guys in here to get the job done."
NOTES: Landeskog skated for the first time Friday since his concussion on Jan. 26. It's a small step on the road back, but a giant leap psychologically for the injured captain and his Avs teammates. ... After leading his team to a 4-3 shootout victory in Minnesota, Giguere missed Saturday's game in Edmonton to attend to what the team is calling a personal matter. ... The Oilers are also without their captain as Shawn Horcoff figures it will be another 5-6 weeks before his broken knuckle is healed enough to let him play. ... Oilers winger Ryan Smyth was back in the Edmonton lineup after being made a healthy scratch for the first time since 1999. .. Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk started for the 13th time in 14 games. ... Oilers left wing Lennart Petrell was hit by a puck in the pre-game warm-up and didn't play.
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