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Avs' Depth Steps Up

Colorado gets secondary scoring against the San Jose Sharks

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Without two of its top scorers, the Colorado Avalanche was looking for its other forwards to step up and provide offensively. Colorado's second line was up to that challenge.

The trio of J.T. Compher, Tyson Jost and Nail Yakupov contributed on all three goals and the Avs defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. Gabriel Bourque and Jost tallied in the first five minutes of the second period, and Compher sealed the game with a 150-plus foot shot into an empty net with 3.6 seconds remaining.

"It's a big win for us. Huge points up for grabs," Jost said. "It wasn't the start we wanted. We didn't play a full 60, but you got to find ways to win and I think we did that tonight. We're happy with our group, and we're happy we got those two points."

The start of the game was anything but great for the team's second forward unit. The group was chasing the play too much, hemmed in its own zone while the Sharks were swarming around goaltender Jonathan Bernier. San Jose ended up holding a 14-3 edge in shots on goal at the first intermission.

"Our line, we didn't like our start. We actually had a very poor start," Jost said. "We had a little bit of a talk with (coach Jared) Bednar between the intermission there. We needed to respond and I'm happy how our line responded and our whole team."

Avs head coach Jared Bednar liked how that line reacted after their locker room chat.

"I'll be honest with you, I did not like that line at all in the first period. They had to defend the whole time, their shift length got long," Bednar said. "They made the biggest adjustment for me for the second and third (periods). Good for those guys. You have to give them a lot of credit because they came out and they were the best line in the second period.

"They're the line that got us going, fired us up and scored two goals. And then Compher gets the empty-net goal at the end, so between those guys they had all three goals. They're put in the spot where they're getting more opportunity, all those guys' minutes have gone up since (Nathan) MacKinnon's gone out of the lineup."

Video: Bednar on the Avs' win vs. San Jose

Jost helped get the Avs the lead and momentum early in the middle frame as he forced a turnover at the Sharks blue line before feeding the puck over to Compher for a 2-on-1 with Bourque, who tapped in the ensuing pass.

"The D was bobbling the puck there, and I think that is a strong part to my game, just getting on the forecheck and trying to strip people," Jost said. "I just tried to not get my stick in between his legs or draw a penalty there. The puck popped out to me, and I tapped it to Comph and he did the rest."

Jost's offensive contribution continued 2:14 later when he scored his first goal since Jan. 6. He took a stretch pass from Yakupov, stickhandled through several Sharks players and then fired a wrist shot that beat goalie Martin Jones on the glove side.

It was Jost's fourth goal of the season and later became the game-winner, marking the first of his young NHL career. The tally ended a nine-game goalless stretch for the rookie and sealed his second career multi-point game.

"I think if you look at my last 10 games, I was pretty due for a goal. I had a lot of chances and was getting pretty unlucky," Jost said. "I just tried to stay positive. It does get frustrating when you have all those chances, and they're not going in. I just stuck with the process and kept working hard."

Video: Jost after the win over the Sharks

Coming off a 3-0 loss at the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, the Avs were in need of secondary scoring to step up with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen both out of the lineup for the meeting versus San Jose. MacKinnon, who is now fifth in the NHL in scoring with 61 points, is out two-to-four weeks with an upper-body injury, while Rantanen, who ranks second on the Avalanche in assists (33) and points (50), was scratched with a lower-body injury.

Losing its top two scorers presented a daunting task for Colorado, but the club stuck with its game plan to find success.

"That's the one thing that we talked about before the game, just play our system. Doesn't matter how many guys are out," Bernier said. "If you play the right way, you'll be in the game. The guys scored a few big goals."

The victory extended the Avs' home winning streak to nine games, the club's most since it moved to Denver in 1995 and the third-longest in franchise history. Colorado will have to wait until Valentine's Day and a matchup with the Montreal Canadiens before it can add to that stretch, as the team heads back out on the road for its next three outings.

The Avalanche only plays five of its 14 games this month at home.

BERNIER KEEPS SHINING

Like they do in real life, the Sharks were swarming its intended target, but Avalanche goalie Jonathan Bernier didn't allow the evening to become a feeding frenzy.

Bernier made 38 saves, stopping double-digit shots each period, and earned his 16th win of the season. He has now won eight straight games on home ice.

"They crash the net really hard, so you got to really pay attention to rebounds and where you're putting the puck and get to the top of the crease," Bernier said of San Jose's attack. "They had a few where I was just there, and they tip the puck and it hit me. I think you got to gain the ice and make sure that you're at the top of your crease."

Part of the reason for Bernier starting Tuesday instead of the now healthy Semyon Varlamov was due to his success against the Sharks when the two clubs last met on Jan. 18, a 5-3 win for Colorado that Bernier made a season-high 45 saves in.

"I think you can play a rested goalie. You can play a goalie that performs well against a certain team. That was the case for me tonight," Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said of his decision-making process. "I thought Varly was great in Winnipeg. We went back with Berns because of his performance last time in this building against San Jose. He did it again tonight."

Video: Bernier after the win over the Sharks

The Laval, Quebec, native has now played in 14 of the Avs' last 15 contests and has started in 13 of those games. He was named the NHL's Third Star for the month of January after posting a league-high eight wins and compiling a 2.10 goals-against average, .939 save percentage and a shutout in 11 games.

"Even last year, I had a really good stretch," Bernier said of his recent play. "This one, to go win that many in a row (overall) was pretty special. That is over now, obviously, and we just have to make sure that we gain as many points as possible. It's not about me. I think when I play good, it's because the team is playing good."

HOME WIN STREAK ALIVE AND WELL

While Colorado's 10-game winning streak, the longest this season in the NHL, ended nearly two weeks ago, the club's home win streak continues and is now at nine games.

The Avs home streak is the second longest in the NHL this season, trailing only Washington's 10 games from Dec. 2 to Jan. 9.

One of the impressive parts of the Avs' recent success at home is that they have scored the first goal in each of the nine contests and have not trailed at any point.

The Quebec Nordiques own the franchise record of 10 straight home victories. They accomplished the feat twice: Nov. 26, 1983 to Jan. 10, 1984 and March 6 to April 16, 1995.

RANTANEN MISSES GAME

Avs forward Mikko Rantanen didn't suit up for the first time this season, as he missed Tuesday contest with a lower-body injury.

Head coach Jared Bednar said after morning skate that Rantanen would be a game-time decision.

The ailment doesn't appear to be serious, and Rantanen could return to action for Thursday's game at the St. Louis Blues.

"He's day-to-day, for sure," Bednar said of the prospect of Rantanen being back in the lineup for the outing versus the Blues. "There was a question mark if he was going to be able to go tonight. It turned out that he had some trouble with some off-ice exercises that they wanted to make sure that he could do before he got on the ice. I would say yeah. Whether he skates tomorrow, we might give him another day and try him in pre-game skate in St. Louis. He's definitely questionable, probable for that game."

Rantanen and Blake Comeau were the only two Colorado players to dress in the first 51 games of the season. Comeau is now the lone skater to play in all 52 outings this year.

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