J.T. Compher lunged out of the penalty box and scored to give Colorado the lead with 7:18 left, and the Avalanche stunned the Edmonton Oilers’ 4-2 on Saturday night on their home ice to take a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
Busted for tripping Leon Draisaitl just three minutes after Ryan McLeod nodded things up, Compher came out of the penalty box just as Evan Bouchard’s shot rang off the post and Avs forward Andrew Cogliano cleared the puck down the ice. Moments later, it was a foot race between Compher and Bouchard until a NASCAR-esque slam from Compher sent Bouchard crashing into the boards, allowing him to take control of the puck and sneak it past goaltender Mike Smith to give the Avalanche the lead.
Half of Colorado’s goals came from one man – Valeri Nichushkin. He scored two goals on the night. Mikko Rantanen lit the lamp with 30 seconds left in regulation with an empty netter, and Pavel Francouz made 27 saves in his second consecutive start. The 32-year-old Czech filled in for Darcy Kuemper midway through Colorado’s 8-6 victory in Game 1 after Darcy Kuemper sustained an upper-body injury and followed up with a 24-save performance Thursday evening in a 4-0 win for his second career playoff shutout.
Valeri Nichushkin scored twice for Colorado, Mikko Rantanen had an empty-netter with 30 seconds left, and Pavel Francouz made 27 saves. Francouz stepped in midway through Colorado’s 8-6 victory in Game 1 when Darcy Kuemper sustained an upper-body injury, then made 24 saves Thursday night in a 4-0 win for his second career playoff shutout.
McLeod tied the game up at two at 7:34 of the third, skating up the ice and splitting three Avs defenders before beating Francouz with a snapshot from the high slot that blew right past the glove.
Connor McDavid scored 38 seconds into the game after gathering control of a loose puck along the boards and slipped it past Francouz to give the Oilers an early 1-0 advantage.
Smith made 39 saves, but it wasn’t enough to prevent his team from going into a 3-0 hole.
Connor McDavid also scored for Edmonton. Smith made 39 saves.
Game 4 is Monday evening in Edmonton, with Colorado a game away from advancing to their first Stanley Cup Final in over two decades. The Avalanche won the cup in 1996 and 2001.
Nazem Kadri was knocked out of the game just 28 seconds after McDavid’s goal after Evander Kane checked him from behind. Kane was issued a five-minute penalty for boarding but was not ejected from the game. However, it is possible Kane could be disciplined for the hit.
Darnell Nurse, unfortunately, scored on his own team to tie the game at one with 3:48 left in the first period. A centering pass from Nichushkin, who was credited with the goal, deflected off the blade of his stick and right under the legs of Smith. Nichushkin scored again at 4:37 in the second when he capitalized on a shot that hit teammate Nathan MacKinnon and catapulted a wrist shot over a diving Smith.
Colorado’s penalty kill was successful late in the second, and the Oilers, too exemplified a stellar penalty kill after Draisaitl was sent to the sin bin for high-sticking.
History is against the Oilers as they try to stave off elimination. Only four NHL teams have ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. The Los Angeles Kings were the last to accomplish the feat in the first round of the 2014 playoffs against the San Jose Sharks. The Kings went on to win the Stanley Cup that year.