If the Edmonton Oilers get into the playoffs, it will be via the hard route.
Sam Gagner scored twice and the Oilers edged closer to Colorado in the Western Conference postseason race with a 7-5 victory over the Avalanche on Saturday.
Dustin Penner, Fernando Pisani, Kyle Brodziak, Marty Reasoner and Marc Pouliot also scored for the Oilers.
Tyler Arnason, Ruslan Salei, Wojtek Wolski, Milan Hejduk and John-Michael Liles responded for the Avalanche.
It was the 11th win in the last 14 outings for the Oilers, who moved three points back of Colorado for the eighth and final playoff position in the Western Conference.
"I'm down to my last nerve," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "It wasn't easy. It should have been a lot easier than it was. We had a great start and then we lacked a little composure in those key situations. Perhaps the youthfulness comes into play. The good thing is that we are getting the experience and still winning the games."
The Avalanche (39-31-6) went winless on their three-game road trip and have lost four straight.
The Oilers got their crowd energized early, scoring on their first shot 50 seconds in. Ales Hemsky fed a pass through Avalanche defender Jeff Finger to Penner who beat Jose Theodore for his 21st of the season.
Edmonton took a two-goal lead midway through the opening frame as Hemsky made a behind-the-back pass to Gagner, who rifled the puck past Theodore.
Pisani made it 3-0 late in the first and Peter Budaj came in to replace Theodore.
The Avalanche cut into the lead five minutes into the second as Arnason sent a backhanded chip shot in off Dwayne Roloson's shoulder.
Edmonton restored its three-goal advantage when Brodziak scored on a breakaway, tucking the puck under Budaj's arm.
Colorado caught a break early in the third as Salei's long dump-in from the point caromed off the knee of Oiler defender Denis Grebeshkov and through Roloson's legs to make it 4-2.
Joe Sakic set up a goal by Wolski and then Hejduk knotted the score 35 seconds later.
The Oilers regained the lead 18 seconds later. Pouliot came out from behind the net and swatted in a rebound for his first of the season.
The 18-year-old Gagner made it a two-goal lead again, but with 2:42 left Liles made it 6-5, when his pass from behind the net hit defenseman Tom Gilbert and went into the Oilers' net.
"We were able to battle through the adversity and that's a big building block for the team," Roloson said. "We took a couple steps backwards in our last game but we found a way to get moving forward again."
Reasoner was awarded a goal with 10 seconds remaining even though the puck didn't go in. He was hooked by Paul Stastny while going in with a clear shot at an empty net.
"We'd certainly have liked to have grabbed something out of this one," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was a tough trip, but we still control where we're heading and it's up to us to pick it up. We lost three tough games, all one-goal games.
"We have to find a way to get some momentum at home."
Notes: Sakic's second-period assist was the 1,000th of his career. He leads active players and became the 11th player in NHL history to hit the milestone. ... Colorado C Peter Forsberg missed another game with a groin injury. ... Roloson made his fifth consecutive start.
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