EDMONTON– It should have been one of the big festivals JT Comphers NHL career.
Had he actually seen the puck cross the goal line, it probably would have.
Instead, the Colorado Avalanche forward had no idea his snap had crept through the legs of the Edmonton Oilers goalie mike smith with 7:18 in the third period for what would prove to be a winning goal in a 4:2 victory at Rogers Place on Saturday.
“Shot five holes and I didn’t see how it went in,” said the 27-year-old. “I thought it was his padding that caused him to move.”
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As the Oilers crowd let out a collective groan, Compher finally got another look. Then reality kicked in. The puck was in the net.
“It took me a second to get there,” he said. “It was nice to see when I finally saw it online.”
Not just for him, but for the entire Avalanche team. Still, the goal led Colorado 3-0 into the Western Conference Finals before going into Game 4 on Monday (8:00 p.m. ET; TNT, CBC, SN, TVAS).
While Compher proved to be the hero of Game 3, his importance in the Avalanche’s progress certainly increased after Nazem Kadri picked up an undisclosed injury at 1:06 of the first period.
The Oilers lead 1-0 through a goal by the captain Connor McDavid 38 seconds into the game, Kadri was hit from behind during a dangerous play by the forward Evander Kane and was on the ice for a few minutes before being helped with the help of a coach. Kane was given a severe penalty for boarding the game.
After losing his second-line center, Avalanche coach Jared Bednar responded by putting Compher in Kadri’s place between Artturi Lehkonen and Kadri Mikko Rantanen.
Given the severity of Kadri’s injury, he could be around for a while.
Bednar announced after the game that Kadri will be out for the rest of the series, if not longer. The Avalanche did not reveal the extent of the injury but given the manager’s diagnosis there is no doubt that it is serious.
Time for Compher to fight back. That night he did.
“You lose a guy of ‘Naz’ stature and the role he’s playing, someone has to step up, if not several guys,” Bednar said. “And I thought JT’s been playing really good hockey lately and found a way to get on the goalscoring charts.
“I thought he did a good job defensively. Obviously a huge goal, second try to take that goal to win the fight and then put it in the net and still put it behind Smith. I thought it was a great game at a very important time in the game.”
Video: COL@EDM, Gm3: Compher takes the lead with a great goal
Compher, who has 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) in 70 regular-season games, has recently regained his goalscoring abilities. He has scored five goals in the last four games and has sparked optimism among his team-mates that he can help close the gap in Kadri’s absence.
“He was great,” forward Nathan MacKinnon said. “We will need him to make a difference going forward as he is and that doesn’t mean [just] Score goals. He was great all over the ice. He’s such a stable, tall, two-way player. He’s with us since [six] years play great.
“It’s great to see him so successful on offense but we need him to keep killing penalties and winning big draws and being a nuisance out there and he’s been great.”
For his part, Compher is confident he can continue to contribute all over the ice, even if he doesn’t actually see the goals coming.
“I think I’ll just stick with it and shoot the puck a little bit more,” he said. “More shots in the last few games than we used to have in the playoffs. But that’s not what I’m focusing on that much, especially tonight. I’m just trying to find the right path and play defensively and that’s when the chances come.”