Gagner leads Oilers' rout of Avalanche

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DENVER (AP) -- After four straight overtime games, the Edmonton

Oilers didn't leave this one to chance.

Sam Gagner had his first career hat trick and added an assist,

and Ales Kotalik had a goal and three assists to help the

Edmonton Oilers beat the Colorado Avalanche, 8-1, on Thursday

night.

The 19-year-old Gagner, who had 10 goals coming into the game,

and Fernando Pisani scored 1:04 apart in the second period to

turn a close game into a blowout. Eight of Edmonton's previous

11 games had been decided by one goal.

"We've been in a few games this year when we've gotten leads and

took our foot off the pedal and squandered leads," Gagner said.

"That was a big focus for us - once we got the lead, to keep on

going. We did a great job of that tonight."

Ethan Moreau, Shawn Horcoff and Sheldon Souray also scored for

Edmonton, tied with Nashville for seventh place in the Western

Conference. The Predators lost, 2-1, in a shootout at San Jose

on Thursday night.

"You always watch (other scores) after you win," Oilers coach

Craig MacTavish said. "When you lose, you don't check it.

Tonight, we'll be watching the out-of-town scoreboard."

While the Oilers took a step toward securing a playoff spot, the

Avalanche moved closer to being eliminated from postseason

contention in record fashion. It was their most-lopsided

regular-season home loss since moving from Quebec to Denver in

1995.

"One word: Ugly," Colorado forward Ian Laperriere said. "It's

embarrassing. I'm sick to my stomach."

The game was actually tied at 1 until Horcoff scored midway

through the first period. It was all Edmonton from there as the

Oilers blitzed Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj for six more goals

on 16 shots. Budaj had allowed eight goals in his previous five

starts combined.

"We haven't had any of those (blowouts), really all year long,"

MacTavish said. "We played pretty smart when we got the lead.

We've been guilty of not managing the situation, not managing

the score."

Down, 4-1, after two periods, the Avalanche had a chance to stay

in the game with an early power play in the third, but Edmonton

goalie Dwayne Roloson came up with some nice saves to keep

Colorado at bay. Roloson, who extended his franchise record by

starting his 26th straight game, made 16 of his 26 saves in the

third period.

Kotalik, Gagner and Souray then combined for four goals in the

final 12 minutes. Gagner got his hat trick with 2:40 remaining.

"Obviously a pretty good feeling, especially when it comes in a

win and we're fighting for points," Gagner said. "We've been on

the wrong side of (a blowout), so it's a pretty good feeling."

Cody McLeod scored for Colorado, which played without defensemen

Adam Foote (head), Ruslan Salei (foot) and Daniel Tjarnqvist

(head) and forwards Paul Stastny (foot) and Darcy Tucker (back).

Avalanche coach Tony Granato was not about to use injuries as an

excuse for the worst performance of the season.

"From the drop of the puck all the way through the last second

of the game, we didn't play well," Granato said. "We had a lot

of passengers tonight."

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