J.T. Compher made his return to the Avalanche Friday night in Arizona after a 17-game absence, leading his team to a 5-1 victory.
Compher scored two early, shorthanded goals that deflated the Coyotes and guided Colorado to their third win in a row and fifth in six games.
The game was Compher’s first since Oct. 13 against the Calgary Flames and only his fifth of the year. After a hooking penalty from Mikko Rantanen at 7:15 into the game, the Avalanche penalty kill made its first appearance, with Matt Nieto playing the wing as Compher took the defensive zone draw.
The Avs quickly got the puck out of the zone when Nieto flew down the ice along the boards and carried it all the way down to the offensive end and curled out. He found a trailing Compher who ripped a shot from the high slot and Compher’s excellent start to the season continued despite the time off.
Just 35 seconds later, while still killing the Rantanen penalty, Compher buried another goal after he broke up a pass in the defensive zone and skated the puck all the way in on a breakaway. Granted, it is still a small sample size, but Compher has registered at least one point in five of the six games he has played in this season, totaling five goals and one assist.
Mikko Rantanen’s impact on the first period wasn’t limited to the early hooking call that sparked the Compher goals as he notched a goal of his own shortly after the team finished killing the penalty. Rantanen’s ninth goal of the season was also on a breakaway opportunity after his linemate Gabe Landeskog lobbed the puck in the air that landed right where Rantanen needed it. He walked in on Coyote’s goaltender Antti Raanta and, much like Compher’s breakaway, he shot the puck high-glove and gave the Avalanche a strong grasp of the game and momentum as they closed the third period with the 3-0 lead.
The second period was more balanced than the first with both teams getting around the same amount of scoring opportunities and possession. Philipp Grubauer, making his third start in the last seven calendar days, kept the Coyotes at bay and the score remained the same heading into the third period.
Tyson Barrie broke the silence, putting the Avs up 4-0 6:11 into the third when he scored his third goal of the season and extended his point streak to seven games. November has been good to Barrie as he has tallied three goals and eight assists this month.
The game was seemingly over and the only question was if the Avalanche could maintain the clean sheet and help Grubauer to his first shutout of the season. At 13:02 into the third Dylan Strome scored a power play goal off of a rebound and Grubauer’s shutout was gone. However, it was a strong showing from the 26-year old goaltender as he stopped 37 of Arizona’s 38 shots and allowed only one goal for the second time this year.
Landeskog gave himself a nice birthday present by scoring a late power play goal, tapping in a rebound that squeaked through Raanta’s legs. The captain wrapped up the night’s scoring with a two-point game.
Colorado improved to 12-6-4 with the victory.
The Avs scored 16 goals in the three-game swing and will look to continue their scoring ways when they return home to play the Dallas Stars on Saturday night on the second of a back-to-back set.
Puck drop will be at 7 p.m. MST. A rested Semyon Varlamov will take the reins in net in an the important Central Division matchup with the Dallas Stars, who trail Colorado in the standings by only two points.