EDMONTON, Alberta ó Ryan Smyth neednít have worried about the kind of reception he would receive on his first visit to Rexall Place as a member of the enemy.
It was as welcome as the unseasonably warm temperature outside.
Edmonton Oilers fans are as passionate as ever about their hockey team, but they havenít forgotten the big goals or lunch-pail work ethic Smyth provided during his 111/2 seasons with the team.
Aside from a smattering of boos late in the game Tuesday night, the 31-year-old left wing was treated like an old friend before the Avalanche skated to a 4-2 win, its first on the road in five attempts this season.
"We needed a win badly," coach Joel Quenneville said. "The last two losses were stinging. We got the win, we got what we were looking for."
Smyth looked relieved afterward to have this first of eight regular-season games against his former teammates over with, and he was especially happy to exit the arena with an important win.
"The team pulled through," said Smyth, adding that Ian Laperriere gave a little pep talk in the locker room before the game.
"He said, ĎLetís do this one for Smitty,í " Smyth said. "Everybody really stepped up, played well. A lot of guys came to congratulate me after the game."
The sellout crowd of 16,839 cheered when Smyth, who was traded to the New York Islanders in February after a contract dispute and signed as a free agent with the Avalanche in July, skated onto the ice for the warm-up.
There was more applause when he flipped a couple of pucks over the glass to some fans ó itís a routine he began several years ago ó before leaving the ice for the locker room.
And Smyth was given a rousing standing ovation when highlights of his time in Edmonton were shown on the large video boards above the ice. Smyth became emotional while watching in front of the Avalanche bench, as did his wife, Stacey, who was sitting in the stands.
"It was very emotional and a very nice gesture and a nice tribute to myself and my family, and quite an honor to come back to the city that you started your NHL career with and be recognized like I was," Smyth said. "The fans were great, and I really appreciate that.
"A lot of things run through your mind. You see those pictures that flash through ... thereís a lot of great memories that Iíll remember forever and Iíll cherish them."
Smyth didnít collect a point, but he managed four shots on goal in 21 minutes, 25 seconds of ice time.
"He was very happy," said goalie Peter Budaj, who had 25 saves. "He said, ĎGreat job, guysí ó just the regular thing. He didnít say we had to win. We knew we had to get off to a good start and start winning on the road."
For the first time in four games, the Avalanche started the scoring and grabbed a 3-1 lead in the first period but didnít do much the rest of the game until defenseman Brett Clark scored an empty-net goal with 17.6 seconds to play.
"It was the first time in a while that we had the lead, and we didnít do a lot with it, which was disappointing," Quenneville said. "You could tell that we werenít comfortable at the end of the game. I think the win should make us a little bit more patient as we go forward."
After the game, Clark presented Smyth with the game-clinching puck.
"That really means a lot to me," Smyth said. "The fact that I played here for such a long time is the thing that (Avalanche teammates) recognized. I appreciate that."
The Oilers outshot the Avalanche 12-4 in a scoreless second period, held the visitors to one shot in the first 11 minutes of the third and closed to 3-2 on a goal by defenseman Tom Gilbert at the 10:45 mark.
Tyler Arnason, who had 11 points in eight games against the Oilers last season, collected a goal on a two-on-one rush and an assist on Jaroslav Hlinkaís first NHL goal, in the opening period.
The Oilers tied the score when Dustin Penner scored on a two-on-one rush, but the Avalanche responded 23 seconds later when Hlinka knocked in a juicy rebound left by goalie Dwayne Roloson.
Wojtek Wolski, who has two goals and four assists in a five-game point-scoring streak, scored what proved to be the winning goal by poking the puck from underneath Rolosonís pad into the net.