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Oilers end seven-game road trip with win in Denver

DENVER (AP) -- An exhausting, seven-game road trip finally came
to an end for the Oilers. And now, maybe Edmonton will start
feeling a little more like home to Chris Pronger.

Pronger, the star defenseman traded away by St. Louis last
summer after nine seasons with the Blues, scored his first goal for
the Oilers on Monday night in a 5-2 victory over the Colorado
Avalanche.

"Yeah, absolutely," Pronger said when asked if it felt good to
finally get off the schneid.

Pronger, who now has the goal to go with his nine assists, broke
through against David Aebischer after taking a pass from Ales
Hemsky at the top of the circle just as a 5-on-3 power play was
ending. The goal made it 3-2 late in the second period and helped
make a winner of goalie Mike Morrison in his first career start.

"I felt fine out there," Morrison said. "I just wanted to
savor the moment and keep it simple, and do the things I've always
done."

Nursing the one-goal lead in the third, Raffi Torres of the
Oilers took a fabulous pass from Hemsky, who beat falling
defenseman Patrice Brisebois, and Torres slammed it past Aebischer
for the insurance goal. A few minutes later, Marty Reasoner made it
5-2 and sent Avalanche fans heading to the exits.

The Oilers, who went on a seven-game losing streak earlier in
the season that prompted coach Craig MacTavish to call their effort
in one game a "stand-alone product for ineptitude," moved back
above .500 at 10-9-1.

They finished the road trip 4-3 and avoided the fate they
suffered on their last trip to Denver, when they gave up three
goals over the final 6:15 in a 5-3 loss.

"This was a key game for me," MacTavish said. "We played 14
games away from home and only six at home. So we are poised to make
a move. This was a big turning point."

Morrison was recently called up from minor league Greenville to
take the spot of the injured Ty Conklin. In this, his first start,
he made 31 saves and staved off a 65-second 5-on-3 opportunity by
Colorado in the second period.

The Avalanche weren't surprised.

"Everybody that plays in the NHL is a pretty good player and it
doesn't matter if he's the backup goalie or not," Avalanche
forward Ian Laperriere said. "He showed that and proved he
belonged."

The Avs fell behind by multiple goals early for the second
straight game. On Saturday against Calgary, they trailed 4-0 en
route to a 5-3 loss. In this one, they gave up two goals over the
first 10½ minutes.

"I don't really have an explanation for that," forward Milan
Hejduk said.

Rob Blake scored late in the first and Laperriere tied it midway
through the second, but Colorado never could take the lead.
Aebischer, chased from the Calgary game, stayed in for the entirety
of this one. He made 17 saves and was hurt by some porous defense
in front of him.

Ryan Smyth opened the scoring with an uncontested shot placed
perfectly over Aebischer's left shoulder from just outside the
crease. Edmonton's second goal came on what looked more like a
centering pass than a shot by Jarret Stoll. It hit Ethan Moreau,
who was part of some heavy traffic in front of the net, and went
in.

Still, Pronger's go-ahead goal had to be the highlight for the
Oilers. Much was expected of the highly regarded defenseman, but
both he and Edmonton's other big offseason pickup, Michael Peca,
have struggled.

Both now have one goal on the season. Pronger celebrated his
with a big fist pump and got heartier-than-usual congrats from his
teammates, who now find themselves one point ahead of Colorado for
third place in the Northwest Division.

"This was a big step for us," MacTavish said.

Game notes
Avalanche F Pierre Turgeon missed the game with a sore hip.
... The Oilers now go home for three straight games, starting
Thursday against Detroit.