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Compher Providing Crucial Secondary Scoring

Forward had hat trick against Kings and is on a three-game point streak

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

J.T. Compher says he wants to be a player that can be counted on in big games at the most crucial parts of the season. He's proven that so far in the final week of the 2020-21 campaign.

After scoring the go-ahead goal in the Avalanche's 2-1 win at the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night, Compher tallied three times for a hat trick on Wednesday in the team's 6-0 victory against the Los Angeles Kings at Ball Arena. The forward is also riding a season-high three-game point streak, recording four goals and an assist.

"It's good for the confidence to see them go in, especially in an important time of the season," Compher said of his recent success. "You know, I pride myself on playing big in big games and I want to be a big part of the run this year."

Those two wins kept Colorado on pace with Vegas for the West Division title and Presidents' Trophy, and the Avs can secure both with a win in the season finale on Thursday. For the Avalanche, getting secondary-scoring help from players like Compher is one of the reasons why the club is in the present position it is in.

"I've really liked his game as of late. I thought he's been skating real well, hounding pucks, and he has to be a tenacious player to have success," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "When he's skating and moving like he's done the last couple weeks then good things will happen for him. He's been getting more involved and you know he's been a little bit snake bitten, and I think you get a night like tonight and hopefully it can give him some confidence to keep doing the right things and knowing that he'll be rewarded for it eventually."

Video: Toyota Game Recap: JT Compher's 1st Career Hat Trick

The hat trick was the first of Compher's career and marked his first multi-goal game of the season. It was the second hat trick scored by an Avalanche player this year, as Joonas Donskoi also recorded his second career three-point contest on March 31 versus the Arizona Coyotes. Compher's three points also equaled his career best (third time).

The Northbrook, Illinois, native credited his teammates for the goals, but he also didn't miss on the passes they fed to him. His first marker came from a hard one-timer after Mikko Rantanen dished him the puck with 45 seconds remaining in the first period, and his second was off a cross-feed from Devon Toews 4:16 into the second. He completed the trifecta on a give-and-go with Valeri Nichushkin at 11:47 of the middle frame.

Video: J.T. Compher after his first career hat trick

"It's pretty cool. It's exciting to get three and during a game when we're pushing toward the end of the season and doing it at home," Compher said of the performance. "All three goals were great plays by teammates, Mikko on the first run, Taser on the second and Val on the last one to get it back to me. Great job by those guys, made it really easy for me."

Compher now has 10 goals and eight assists on the season, marking the fourth-straight campaign he's contributed double-digit tallies. He is the ninth Avalanche player to score 10 or more times this campaign, tied for the most in the league with the Washington Capitals.

"We need everybody to be going at this time of year, and we need everybody to be playing well and obviously that goal he scored for us in Vegas was a big one," said captain Gabriel Landeskog on Compher. "Looking back on it, real kind of determined play in front of the net and now tonight scoring a hat trick, first career hat trick, just super happy for him. Works really hard and is kind of a guy who is dedicated to his game and always trying to find ways to get better."

Video: COL@VGK: Compher taps home the feed from Newhook


GRUBAUER POSTS SHUTOUT

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer didn't face a lot of shots, but he stopped all of them for his seventh shutout of the season.

Grubauer made all 18 saves in the contest after only seeing three pucks come his way in the opening frame. The netminder is now tied with Craig Anderson (2009-10) and Patrick Roy (1996-97) for the second-most clean sheets in a single season in franchise history. Roy owns the record with nine shutouts in 2001-02.

The Rosenheim, Germany native also shares the league lead for the most shutouts in the NHL this season with former Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov, who also has seven with the New York Islanders.

Wednesday's performance marked Grubauer 30th victory of the season, joining Roy (seven times), David Aebischer, Peter Budaj, Anderson and Varlamov as the only goalies in franchise history to reach the mark. Grubauer is 13-0-1 in his last 14 appearances at Ball Arena, matching the longest home point streak by a goaltender this season. His 1.95 goals-against average ranks second in franchise history behind Roy's 1.94 in 2001-02.

Grubauer won't play on Thursday as the Avs wrap up the back-to-back against the Kings. Jonas Johansson will get the scheduled start in goal.

"JJ is ready to go for tomorrow, and [if] we play the way we can play in front of him, we'll give ourselves a good chance to win," said head coach Jared Bednar. "[Johansson] did a nice job in L.A. (last week) getting us the victory, and we need to make sure these guys are sharp going into the playoffs."

TROPHIES ON THE LINE

The Avalanche can claim both the West Division and Presidents' Trophy--given to the team that was the best during the regular season--but both achievements would be byproducts of the team's primary regular-season goal. Colorado wants home-ice advantage in the first round and throughout the postseason to secure any benefit it might need.

"I think our goal from training camp was to win the league and win the Presidents' Trophy and to make sure we had home ice all the way through the playoffs," Landeskog said. "[We've] put ourselves in a position to win a hockey game tomorrow to do that. It would be a big step in the right direction and then take on the next challenge after that."

Video: Gabriel Landeskog meets with the media postgame

The win on Wednesday did clinch home ice for Round 1 for the Avs, who are currently in second place and two points behind leader Vegas. The Golden Knights' season is now complete, and Colorado owns the tiebreaker with one more game to play and 34 regulation wins.

Colorado is 21-4-2 (44 points) on home ice this season and is tied for the second-most wins and fourth-most home points in the NHL this year. The Avs are 15-0-1 in their last 16 contests at home (since March 10), the second-longest home point streak in franchise history, and are on a season-high eight-game winning streak at Ball Arena.

"We know how important matchups are in the playoffs and if we are able to have Game 7 in our building and start off series in our building, I think that's a big key for us," Landeskog said. "That's what we're trying for tomorrow."

MACKINNON UPDATE

Nathan MacKinnon didn't play in Wednesday's contest due to a lower-body injury, and Bednar said postgame that the forward won't suit up for Thursday's outing either.

However, MacKinnon should be ready to go when the Avs open the postseason.

"He's day-to-day," Bednar said of MacKinnon after morning skate. "He got dinged up in the Vegas game. Unrelated to the injury that he had in his previous two games, so at this point we're just trying to get him ready for the playoffs. He's unable to play tonight, and hopefully he's good and healthy and ready to go for Game 1 of the playoffs."

MacKinnon missed both contests at Los Angeles last Friday and Saturday with a lower-body ailment before returning for Monday's outing at the Golden Knights. He leads the Avs in scoring this year with 65 points (20 goals, 45 assists).

GIRARD RETURNS

After a six-game absence due to a lower-body injury suffered on April 30, defenseman Samuel Girard returned to Colorado's lineup.

Girard began Wednesday's contest on a defensive pairing with Ryan Graves and finished with an assist, three shots, two blocks and a takeaway in 19:02 of ice time.

"I thought Sam was good. Maybe a little rusty early, some of his puck touches weren't as clean as they normally are," Bednar said. "He did some good things for us, defended well, all the things we've come to expect from him. He was good on the breakouts, good in the rush coverage. I thought it was a real good first game back after missing that kind of time with an injury."

The Roberval, Quebec, native was also celebrating his 23rd birthday. He has played in 272 career games since breaking into the league as a 19-year-old in 2017-18.

MORE POSTGAME NOTES

The Avalanche has scored first in 36 of its 55 games this season, tied with Vegas for the most in the NHL. Colorado is 29-5-2 when lighting the lamp first, the second-most wins in the league when doing so.

The victory marked the seventh time this season that the Avs have scored six or more goals in a game, tied for the third-most such performances this season. The Tampa Bay Lightning has also done it seven times, while the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers (both eight) are the only teams that have more.

Gabriel Landeskog scored his 20th goal of the year, his eighth 20-goal campaign in 10 NHL seasons. Only Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk (both 11) have more 20-goal seasons since the franchise moved to Denver. Landeskog's tally was also the 218th of his career, moving him past Peter Forsberg for sixth place in franchise history.

Mikko Rantanen's three assists were a season high and equals his career best (9x - last: Nov. 30, 2019 vs. Chicago).

Devon Toews registered two assists and has 21 helpers this campaign, one shy of his career best set last year with the New York Islanders. He has produced 30 points in 2020-21, a career high that eclipses his previous best of 28 (also last season).

Cale Makar skated in his 100th NHL game. His 93 points (20 goals, 73 assists) are the fifth-most by a defenseman through 100 regular-season games in NHL history.

Joonas Donskoi scored his 16th goal of the year, equaling his career high set during the 2019-20 campaign. Donskoi's goal stood as the game-winner, his third of the season and one shy of his career best set in 2018-19 with San Jose.

Jayson Megna notched an assist for his first point in an Avalanche sweater and first NHL point since March 21, 2017 at Chicago while a member of the Vancouver Canucks.

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