Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, about 25 miles away from United Center, J.T. Compher had his friends and family in the stands cheering him on as he had one of the best offensive nights of his career so far.
The Northbrook, Illinois, native recorded his first three-point game and his third multi-goal outing as the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3 on Friday.
Compher's second period goal was the first time he registered a point in the building that he grew up watching hockey played at its highest level.
"I am from about a half hour north of this city and grew up coming to Hawks games; I was a big Hawks fan until I got drafted," Compher said after the win. "It is great, huge win for our team in the playoff hunt. We played a good 60 minutes and it's always special to get a win and get a goal in front of my family and friends here."
His second marker of the game came after Patrik Nemeth intercepted a Chicago pass and dished the puck up ice to give Compher a breakaway. The tally gave the Avalanche a 4-3 lead and ended up as the eventual game-winner, his third of the year.
Video: COL@CHI: Compher nets second goal on breakaway
"Huge goal. I mean they get us running around in D-zone coverage, and I thought Nemeth makes a great play to flex out, cut the pass and then pump it right up the middle and Compher finished it off," said head coach Jared Bednar. "We had a few plays like that… Carl (Soderberg) gets the goal [on a] similar play off the rush and gets a partial breakaway on a soft area pass on the entry, and J.T. gets one right out of the zone up the middle."
Compher wasn't sure his shot went in, but Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog let the second-year forward know that he had regained the lead for Colorado. The puck caromed off the crossbar and Chicago goaltender Collin Delia before settling across the goal line.
"I knew I hit bar and I didn't think it went down, so I didn't know I scored until Landy told me," said Compher. "They all count the same and helped us get a win."
It was Compher's 14th goal of the campaign, a new career high for the second-year forward who had 13 tallies in his rookie season in 2017-18.
Video: COL@CHI: Rantanen connects with Compher for PPG
His multi-point effort helped Colorado improve to a 1-1-1 record against the Blackhawks this season, with two games remaining in the series (a home-and-home, back-to-back set on March 23-24). The Avalanche has won eight of its last 12 games at United Center.
So far this year, Compher has skated in 45 games and has 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists). His 14 tallies rank fifth on the Avs.
SODERBERG HITS 20-GOAL MARK: Carl Soderberg scored the first tally of the game with 3:51 remaining in the frame to record his 20th goal of the season.
Video: COL@CHI: Soderberg pots wrister for his 20th goal
It is the first time in the Malmo, Sweden, native's NHL career that he has hit the 20-tally mark, but he wasn't done scoring against the Blackhawks.
He added his 21st in the final minute of the game with an empty-netter during a Chicago 6-on-4 situation to seal the win for the Avalanche in Chicago.
It was the ninth short-handed marker of the campaign for Colorado, tied for third in the league. Eight of those tallies have come on the road, the second-most since the club relocated for the 1995-96 campaign and recorded nine that year. The Avs rank second in the NHL with road shorties behind only the Calgary Flames, who have netted 10 as the visiting team.
Video: COL@CHI: Soderberg pots second goal into empty net
It was Soderberg's second multi-goal performance of the year and fifth of his NHL career, all of which have come with the Avalanche. He became the ninth player in league history to record first 20-goal season at age 33 or older. The veteran center now has 39 points through 61 outings this year, his most since he had 51 in 2015-16 with the Avs.
Colorado now has four 20-goal scorers through 61 matchups in a campaign for the first time since 2006-07 when Joe Sakic, Andrew Brunette, Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny accomplished the feat.
VARLY VARLY: In his ninth consecutive start, his longest streak of the season, goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 41 saves in the victory.
"It is a tough building to play. Chicago is a very skilled team, very dangerous offensively so we knew that," said Varlamov. "They can play on the rush--they are probably the best team on the rush these days. They have been playing so well lately too, so it was a big game for us. It is a big win for us coming in this building, we had a really tough game today.
"It was a really tight game. I am glad we scored in the end, and then the last two minutes we are going to play on the PK and Patrik Nemeth, I think he blocked like 10 shots, so that was huge. I mean everybody played well."
The Russian netminder is 4-1-0 with a 1.41 goals-against average and .960 save percentage over his last five starts.
Video: COL@CHI: Varlamov stays alert on deflection
RANTANEN RECORDS HIS 200TH POINT: Mikko Rantanen registered the primary assist on J.T. Compher's first tally of the game to record the 200th point of his NHL career.
Selected by the Avalanche with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 Draft, Rantanen has 75 goals and 126 assists through 226 games. He is now the third member of his draft class to hit the milestone, joining Connor McDavid (339) and Jack Eichel (240) as the only players chosen in 2015 to have already hit 200 points.
The Nousiainen, Finland, native leads Colorado with 78 points (25 goals, 53 assists) through 61 games this season, which also ranks tied for fifth in the NHL.
MORE AVALANCHE NOTES: The Avalanche has won three consecutive games, four of its last five and has gained points in seven of its last nine outings.
The Avs scored three goals in the third period and have now tallied 81 goals in the final frame of regulation, ranked second in the NHL in third-period scoring (Calgary, 89).
Gabriel Landeskog notched his team-leading 32nd goal of the season in the third period, his 19th of the season in the final frame. He also added an assist for his 19th multi-point game of the 2018-19 campaign.
Patrik Nemeth notched two assists for his fifth career multi-point outing and first of the season.
Colorado has outscored its opposition 19-8 over the last five games and 15-4 in the past three outings.
Andrew Agozzino registered a career-high five hits.