DENVER – J.T. Compher made headlines after Game 5 by smashing a metal garbage can with his stick.
In Game 6 he stuck it to the San Jose Sharks.
The 24-year-old didn’t score the overtime winner on Monday night – that honour went to captain Gabriel Landeskog. But prior to that, one of the heroes the Colorado Avalanche were looking for to extend their season came from the most unlikely of sources in a third line winger.
An amazing development for a team sorely lacking depth up front.
Compher’s three-point night played a big role in helping the Avalanche stave off elimination with a 4-3 overtime win to force Game 7 in San Jose on Wednesday.
His effort set the stage for Landeskog’s winner, which came 2:32 into overtime when his shot from the slot bounced in off Martin Jones, sending the crowd at Pepsi Center into a frenzy.
“It’s a huge step for our team,” said Landeskog, whose goal marked the first point from the top line in the last two games. “It’s a great opportunity for us to be 60 minutes away from a Western Conference Final. I mean, who would have thought before the season and who would’ve thought before this series or whatever. For us, we keep believing.
“You just have to instil that doubt in that team on the other side. And at this point, I doubt the last thing they wanted to do was go back and play another one at home in San Jose. So we accomplished Step 1 to win this one and now we have to regroup and win another one.”
It was a gritty win for the Avs, who allowed San Jose to score goals late in the second and third periods to tie the game, including a back-breaking goal by Marc-Edouard Vlasic with 2:28 remaining to send it into overtime.
Prior to that, it looked like Compher’s goal early in the third – his second of the game – would stand as the winner.
“It was a little discouraging when they kept coming back, but this group is resilient and we stuck with it tonight,” said Compher, who had one three-point outing in his previous 172 NHL games.
“We’ve been counted out many times this year this group has and we’re very resilient and we’ll be ready to go for Game 7. Game 6 means nothing if we don’t go win Game 7. So the page will be turned pretty quickly here and we’ll make sure we’re ready to go in two days.”
Compher and the rest of his eighth-ranked Avs spent most of the post-game celebration reiterating the word opportunity, which is what they’ve created against long odds.
“You guys talk about the future more than us – we’re here every day, and we’re in the present, and we know how big of an opportunity we have,” said Compher.
“There are guys who’ve been in the league for a long time and haven’t had this opportunity.”
The winning goal started with a Cale Makar shot from the point.
“I think everybody just really knew we were going to win and wanted to win really bad,” said the 20-year-old defenceman when asked about the mood in the dressing room before overtime.
“Now it’s a toss-up and the pressure is on them going back to San Jose. It’s going to be a fun one.”
A stunned Sharks room credited the hosts for a win spearheaded by lesser lights.
“Their depth guys beat us tonight,” said forward Logan Couture.
“We got beat by J.T. Compher, Tyson Jost, their second, third, fourth line.”