After not being able to find the back of the net in 37 games during his rookie NHL season, it took Dominic Toninato just one to find that sweet twine in his sophomore campaign.
Toninato scored his first career NHL goal in his season debut and sparked the Colorado Avalanche to a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday at Bell MTS Place.
"You get a guy like that, that is coming in, and he's trying to prove himself. We needed that first goal," said Avs head coach Jared Bednar. "We needed to try and play with the lead and get some confidence. Our guys were really focused, but then to be able to get that goal from a guy like Toni, I think our bench got some juice out of that and the rest of our lineup followed suit."
The Duluth, Minnesota, native was playing roughly 380 miles and nearly seven hours northwest of his hometown and was skating in his first contest with the Avalanche since March 28 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Toninato was recalled from the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League for the second time this season on Wednesday after the Avs learned that Sheldon Dries wasn't going to be able to play versus the Jets after falling ill.
On his second shift of the night, Toninato opened the game's scoring by knocking in a loose puck after A.J. Greer's shot in close rebounded out to him at 5:23 of the first period.
"Obviously a lot of excitement. It's definitely been a long time coming," Toninato said of the goal. "It feels good to get that first one out of the way and can just keep playing now."
Video: COL@WPG: Toninato pots rebound for first NHL goal
Toninato's tally began a strong first frame for the Avs, who outshot the Western Conference-leading Jets 13-8 and led 2-1 on the scoreboard after Gabriel Landeskog's marker midway through the stanza.
"We score a quick two goals and set the tone for the game. Especially in this building, we know how hard it is to play here," said Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov. "The guys score two quick goals, and after that everyone was like, 'Let's go.'"
Toninato centered the team's fourth line with Greer and Sven Andrighetto, and the trio played a key role in providing secondary scoring against Winnipeg. Greer picked up his first point of the season on Toninato's goal, and Andrighetto sealed the game for Colorado with a tally of his own with 3:39 left in the third period.
"We got to be that spark," Toninato said. "Just get pucks and bodies to the net."
The line was also involved physically against the bruising Jets, especially in the third period when more extracurricular activities following whistles began to arise.
"It was a great night for all three of us. I thought we played really well and did our job in what we were asked of," Greer said. "We played offensive and in the D-zone, whenever we were caught there, we got the puck out and made sure we didn't give up any odd-man rushes and offensive zone chances for them.
"I'm really happy for those two guys to score, Sven and Dom, they really worked hard and it's great to see guys impact the game that get limited ice time. We did the job and more, and I'm really happy with the guys."
Toninato is in his second season with the Avalanche organization after signing as a college free agent on Aug. 16, 2017. He recorded two assists in 37 NHL games last year after making his debut on Nov. 18, 2017.
The forward began the campaign with the Eagles and has registered six goals and nine assists in 37 AHL outings.
He is the fourth Avs player this season to notch his first NHL goal, joining teammates Dries, Ryan Graves and Vladislav Kamenev.
30 FOR LANDY: Gabriel Landeskog became the first player on the Avalanche to hit the 30-goal mark this year with his tally at 10:29 of the first period.
Landeskog, who has already set a career high for goals this season, took a pass from linemate Nathan MacKinnon in the slot, had a lane to the net and flipped a backhand shot past goalie Connor Hellebuyck's glove side.
Video: COL@WPG: Landeskog goes top shelf with backhander
The Colorado captain is just the 10th player (20th time) to reach the 30-goal threshold since the team moved to Denver in 1995.
The tally was also Landeskog's 399th career NHL point (173 goals, 226 assists), one shy of becoming the second member from the 2011 NHL Draft class to reach the 400-point milestone. Nikita Kucherov reached the plateau first and has 428 career points for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
COMPHER GOES SHORT, AGAIN: J.T. Compher scored his third short-handed goal of the season 6:12 into the second period to give Colorado a 3-1 advantage versus the Jets. The marker sets a new career high for the American forward for shorties in a season.
"We're trying to keep the pressure on them," Compher said of his goal against a tough Winnipeg squad. "We know how dangerous they get as the game goes on. They have a lot of skilled players. It's keeping the pressure on them and keep making then work."
Video: COL@WPG: Compher beats Hellebuyck on break for SHG
Compher scored on a breakaway with 37 seconds left on a Winnipeg power play after Matt Nieto found him with a stretch pass in the neutral zone.
"In order to win, you got to have some guys make some plays and that was a big play by J.T.," Bednar said. "He battles in all the way down the ice, gets a step on a guy, takes it to the net, it was a great move."
Compher had two short-handed tallies during his first full season in the NHL last year and now has five overall in his career. He leads the Avalanche in man-disadvantage goals in 2018-19 and is tied for fourth in the league in the category (three players share the NHL lead with four markers shorthanded).
NOTES OF THE GAME: The Avalanche played for the third and final time this season in Winnipeg, finishing with 1-2-0 record. Each of the Avs-Jets matchups this season have taken place in the Manitoba capital city.
Colorado will play Winnipeg five times his season, with the clubs next meeting on Wednesday at Pepsi Center. The division rivals will also play in Denver on April 4 in the Avalanche's final home game of the regular season.
The contest against Winnipeg marked the start of a stretch that has Colorado playing nine of 10 games versus Western Conference teams, with five on the Avs' next six against foes from the Central Division.
The Avalanche played on Valentine's Day for the 10th time since moving to Denver in 1995, improving its record to 5-4-1 on the Feb. 14.
MORE POSTGAME NOTES: Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each recorded an assist on Gabriel Landeskog's tally, marking the 23rd time this season that each player on Colorado's top line has gotten a point on the same goal. The Avalanche has a 20-5-5 record this year when all three players on its top line record a point.
Matt Nieto registered his second multi-point game of the season (also: Dec. 22, 2018 at Arizona).
Tyson Barrie's seven blocked shots is a career high, surpassing his previous high of five (Dec. 1, 2014 vs. Montreal).