One October surprise looks like it's coming down to earth, while another continues to soar.
The Oilers were shut down for the second straight game as the Colorado Avalanche — check that, the NHL-leading Colorado Avalanche — defeated Edmonton 3-0 at home Tuesday, with goaltender Craig Anderson nabbing his second shutout of the season.
Milan Hejduk gave Colorado a 1-0 lead in the first period and Wojtek Wolski doubled the Avs' advantage at 9:34 of the third. Wolski added an empty-netter with less than two minutes left in the game.
The 28-year-old Anderson has arguably been the best goaltender in the league during the opening month of the season. He has already set an Avalanche record for wins in October, and added to that total Tuesday with his ninth of the season.
"I think overall it was a great team effort," Anderson said. "We didn't give them all that much and whatever we did, I was able to see and make the save and the guys were there to clean up the rebound."
Anderson stopped all 25 shots he faced Tuesday. His play has helped Colorado to one of its best starts in franchise history — not bad for a team that's supposedly in rebuilding mode.
The Avs' 9-1-2 record and 20 points are tops in the league, even better than the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins. Anderson has started in every game, a team record for consecutive starts to begin a season, and seems to have wrested the No. 1 starting job from an ailing Peter Budaj.
Colorado has now won three straight games and seven of its last eight.
"It was a very good road win," Hejduk said. "We had a good start and really kept the game in their zone. We created a lot of scoring chances."
Not that any of it matters to an Edmonton team that has suddenly gone ice-cold on the scoresheet.
After surprising everybody by flying out of the gate with a 6-2-1 record, the Oilers have now lost three straight games and been shut out in the last two. The Oilers have gone 141 minutes and 25 seconds without scoring.
"We've got to play better if we intend to be a top team," said forward Sam Gagner. "Tonight we didn't even show up for the first period. We should be embarrassed to get shut out two games in a row."
Their big chance to make a game of it came in the second period while down 1-0, when Colorado took two straight penalties that gave Edmonton an extended power play — and a short two-man advantage.
But the Oilers, who went 0-for-6 against Vancouver on Sunday night, came up empty.
Head coach Pat Quinn tried to give his team a spark, any spark, by pulling goalie Nikolai Khabibulin with over two minutes to go in the third period. But the move backfired when Wolski was awarded an empty-net goal because he was hooked while on a breakaway.
Khabibulin stopped 31 of 33 Colorado shots.
Hampered by turnovers
What ailed the Oilers on Tuesday was turnovers. A turnover led to the opening goal mere seconds into the game, as Hejduk jumped on one to score his fifth of the season at 0:25 of the first, and Edmonton was guilty of coughing up the puck all night long.
"There is no excuse for the pucks we turned over," said Oilers captain Ethan Moreau. "We were stubborn with the puck. We didn't support each other. No goals in seven periods, the easy answer is the turnovers."
Wolski made it 2-0 Colorado at 9:34 of the third. He out-raced Taylor Chorney for a loose puck and deked out Khabibulin to score his first goal of the game.
Oilers defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky left the game early in the third and did not return. But there was some good news for Edmonton, as Mike Comrie returned to the lineup after sitting out with the flu.
Earlier Tuesday, Colorado confirmed goalie Budaj has swine flu. He didn't accompany the Avalanche on their four-game road trip that started against the Oilers.
After the game, Edmonton also confirmed that defenceman Ladislav Smid has swine flu.
Smid was actually in action against Colorado on Tuesday, playing 19 minutes 47 seconds. The Oilers believe he is the only player on the team to have caught the virus.
Edmonton will try to snap its losing streak against Detroit at home on Thursday. Colorado visits Calgary on Wednesday.