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Oilers halt six-game skid

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DENVER -- As the losses kept coming, Jordan Eberle tried to stay positive. The 22-year-old forward didn't have a point for six games, all Edmonton Oilers losses, but he didn't let the frustration build up.

"When things aren't going well, you can't change your game," he said. "I was trying to stay patient and stay with it and I knew something was going to click."

What clicked was the schedule. The cure for Edmonton's struggles was a game against the Colorado Avalanche, a team it dominated all season. Behind a goal and two assists from Eberle, the Oilers beat the Avalanche 4-1 on Friday night, ending the six-game losing streak.

Justin Schultz had a goal and an assist, and Devan Dubnyk stopped 33 shots for the Oilers.

Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also scored for Edmonton.

The Oilers are on the brink of being mathematically eliminated from the playoff race but held off on vacation plans by getting a much-needed win over Colorado.

Edmonton won four of the five meetings against its Northwest Division rival, including two of three in Denver.

"They expose us," said P.A. Parenteau, who scored Colorado's lone goal. "They're really good players, all those kids they have. They make some mistakes, they'll turn the puck over, but if you do that against them they make you pay. That's what happened tonight."

The Avalanche were eliminated from any postseason chance long ago, but they had played well of late, going 2-0-2 against teams in or fighting for the playoffs. They couldn't solve Edmonton, which continued its domination of Colorado this season.

The Oilers made themselves at home again Friday, scoring twice in the first period and once in the second to take a 3-1 lead.

Eberle was a one-man show in helping Edmonton end its losing streak. With the game tied 1-1 in the first, he put a twirling backhand shot on net through traffic that Schultz tipped past goalie Semyon Varlamov to make it 2-1.

"They came hard at us in the first period, which is always going to happen when you're on the road," Dubnyk said. "We did a real good job of not really panicking and we went down and got a huge goal to make it 2-1. They were storming us, and from the second period on, I thought we were awesome. We were winning battles everywhere in their end and our end."

In the second, Eberle skated in on the goalie and left a drop pass to Nugent-Hopkins, who beat Varlamov with a wrister. He then gave the Oilers a 4-1 lead with his 13th goal later in the period.

"Nothing was going in for me, so it's nice to get on the scoresheet and help the team win," Eberle said. "That's the biggest thing. When your team's losing and you're not contributing it can be tough."

Varlamov had 20 saves in his return to the lineup after missing five games with a hip injury. He showed rust and fell to 1-4 against the Oilers this year.

"He was OK, just OK," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "He's in a situation where in that first period, maybe a couple of more big saves for us to get us out even after the first period, especially when we had 20 shots on their goalie. It was his first game back in a little while. Hopefully he'll get up to speed the next few games. He's capable of playing better."

The Avalanche feel they all could have played better, especially against the Oilers.

"Nugent-Hopkins has three goals against us, and he has four all year," Sacco said. "That's a sign of us being soft a little bit. I wish I had the answer. It's tough right now, it's not fun. We've been playing some better hockey but no life."

NOTES: Forward Milan Hejduk was back in the lineup for Colorado. He missed five games with a shoulder injury and nine games total. Colorado killed off four penalties Friday and has killed off 13 straight in its last four home games. The Avalanche improved to a league-best 91.9 percent at in killing off penalties at home. ... Edmonton outscored Colorado 19-9 in the five games this season. ... Parenteau is one goal shy of tying his career high set last year with the New York Islanders. He needed 80 games to get 18 last season and has 17 in just 44 games this year.
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