NEWARK, N.J. -- If Colin White or Adam Mair were willing to go, Chris Stewart would have had the Gordie Howe Hat Trick in Friday's win over New Jersey, and it would have included the game-winning goal.
After coming to the aide of teammates T.J. Galiardi and Matt Duchene late in the second period, first challenging White and then Mair, Stewart rifled a glove-side slap shot past Martin Brodeur 4:31 into the third period for what proved to be the winner in Colorado's 3-2 victory over the Devils. Stewart also had the primary assist on Galiardi's goal in the second period.
All this and he played only 15 shifts totaling 11:22 of ice time.
"You know, he was opportunistic tonight," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said of Stewart.
He was also the big guy in the right spot at the right time.
Stewart was behind the play when White got his stick up into Galiardi's neck, drilling the Avs' forward into the end boards 17:34 into the second period. Stewart raced in and tried to challenge White, but the officials stepped in and sent the Devils' veteran defenseman to the penalty box for high sticking.
Galiardi remained down for a while and with a trainer's help made it back to the bench, but he never went back to the dressing room and he was fine to play the entire third period.
"From the angle I saw it kind of looked like he got buried from behind," Stewart said. "Obviously the ref said that wasn't the case and it's up to his judgment, but any time that happens to one of my teammates I'm always going to be there to come to the aid. That's part of my job and that's one of the reasons I'm on the line."
"You know, Stewie will do that for anyone on the team," Galiardi said. "It just shows his character. He's always been like that. He'll protect anyone and at the same time he's one of our best players."
Only 92 seconds later, Stewart watched Mair crunch Duchene into the half wall with a cross check, so he jumped in again and tried to challenge Mair. This time, though, Stewart was called for a retaliation roughing penalty, negating a would-be power play for the Avalanche as Mair had been called for cross checking.
"Honestly, I took a look first and I looked at the wrong ref. He didn't have his hand up," Stewart admitted. "If I had known we had a power play I probably would have made a better decision there, but Matt Duchene is a franchise player here and nine times out of 10 someone is going to have to step up."
Stewart stepped up in a different way early in the third period when he took a pass from John-Michael Liles and blasted a slap shot by Brodeur. He said the scouting report told him not to shoot glove side on Brodeur, but he saw the goalie leaning and Liles driving the net so he shot hoping for a rebound and "it just happened to go home."
He'll take it. Two-thirds of the Gordie Howe is OK, too.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl