Smyth had spent his entire 12-year career with Edmonton before leaving a trail of tears when the Oilers dealt him to the New York Islanders right before the March trade deadline. He didn't get on the score sheet, but left with a victory.
"It was obviously very emotional," Smyth said. "It's quite an honor to come back to the city where you started your NHL career and be recognized like I was. The fans were great."
It was the first road victory in five tries this season for the Avalanche (5-4).
"We needed a win in the worst way," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said. "We were doing whatever we could to get a road win and probably played that simple, ugly hockey game with not a lot of chances either way."
"We need to win for sure against our division," forward Jarret Stoll said. "If you don't play well against your division you're not going to look that good at the end of the year. It's a very good and competitive division and we have to come out stronger and play better against those teams."
Although it was another setback, Oilers coach Craig MacTavish saw enough positive things to feel better about his team.
"As a coach you never want to get into the habit of rationalizing the losses," he said. "We certainly feel that if we executed and played the game for 60 minutes we would have got the win. So we're disappointed by the result. But I'm not unhappy with the way that we played."
Colorado took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period when Arnason stole the puck from defenseman Denis Grebeshkov and went in on a 2-on-1. He chose to shoot and sent a wrister into the top corner past goalie Dwayne Roloson.
The sold-out crowd was still cheering that goal when Colorado scored 23 seconds later as a point shot by Jean-Michael Liles bounced out to Hlinka, who notched his first NHL goal.
The Avalanche took a 3-1 lead with a late first-period goal by Wolski. He sneaked a puck under a sprawling Roloson, who was trying to cover up with the bottom of his pad.
The Oilers cut the deficit to a goal midway through the third as Sam Gagner fed a pass off of Penner's skate to a pinching Gilbert, who blasted the shot into the back of the net.
Clark scored an empty-netter with 18 seconds left to seal the win for Colorado.
"It was a big win," he said. "We needed it after a couple of games slipped away. We needed to get our confidence, get our first road win -- and it was good to get the win for Smytty."
- The Oilers honored a teary-eyed Smyth with a video presentation before the game. Smyth was given a standing ovation.
- The Oilers were without D Joni Pitkanen, out indefinitely with a knee injury sustained in Edmonton's previous game against Calgary. Pitkanen will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Friday. Edmonton was already without another key defensed shoulder.
- Joe Sakic notched a first-period assist and needs two points to become the eighth NHL player with 1,600.