EDMONTON, AB – It should have been one of the great celebrations of J.T. Compher‘s NHL career.
Had he actually witnessed the puck cross the goal line, it likely would have been.
Instead, the Colorado Avalanche forward had no idea that his snap shot had snuck through the legs of Edmonton Oilers goalie Mike Smith with 7:18 remaining in the third period for what would prove to be the winning goal in a 4-2 victory at Rogers Place on Saturday.
“Shot five-hole and I didn’t see it go in,” the 27-year-old said. “I thought it was in his pads the way he was moving.”
As the Oilers crowd let out a collective groan, Compher finally took another look. That’s when the reality set 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 did see it in the net.”
Not only for him, but for the entire Avalanche team. The goal, after all, lifted Colorado to a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Final heading into Game 4 on Monday (8 p.m. ET; TNT, CBC, SN, TVAS).
While Compher proved to be the hero of Game 3, his importance for the Avalanche moving forward certainly gained traction after Nazem Kadri sustained an undisclosed injury at 1:06 of the first period.
With the Oilers leading 1-0 on a goal by captain Connor McDavid 38 seconds into the game, Kadri was hit from behind on a dangerous play by forward Evander Kane and was down on the ice for several minutes before being helped off with the aid of a trainer. Kane was assessed a major penalty for boarding on the play.
Having lost his second-line center, Avalanche coach Jared Bednar responded by moving Compher into Kadri’s spot between Artturi Lehkonen and Mikko Rantanen.
He might be there for a while, given the severity of Kadri’s injury.
Bednar announced after the game that Kadri will be out for the remainder of the series, if not longer. The Avalanche did not reveal the extent of the injury, but there is no doubt it is serious given the coach’s diagnosis.
Time for Compher to step up. On this night, he did.
“You lose a guy of ‘Naz’s’ stature and the role that he plays, someone has to step up, if not multiple guys,” Bednar said. “And I thought J.T. has been playing some really good hockey lately, finding a way to get on the score sheet.