Compher’s OT goal lifts Avalanche past Leafs
DENVER — Auston Matthews has quickly become one of the stars of the NHL, but Nathan MacKinnon is proving he deserves praise, too.
Thanks to J.T. Compher’s overtime goal, MacKinnon has bragging rights on his fellow No. 1 pick.
Compher scored 3:25 into overtime, MacKinnon had a goal and two assists, and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Friday night.
Mikko Rantanen and Alexander Kerfoot also scored for the Avalanche, who got the winner on the power play.
Nikita Zadorov had two assists and Semyon Varlamov stopped 31 shots for Colorado (18-16-3).
James van Riemsdyk, Matt Martin and Roman Polak scored Toronto’s goals and Calvin Pickard had 24 saves against his former team. Polak added an assist.
The Maple Leafs are 2-1-1 on their season-long five-game road trip that ends Sunday in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights.
Compher got the winner, but MacKinnon’s overall play lifted the Avalanche to the win. He now has 16 goals and 27 assists, and his 43 points are ninth among NHL scoring leaders.
Matthews has followed up his 40-goal rookie season with 16 goals and 14 assists in 29 games.
“He’s one of the top players in the league, that’s no secret,” MacKinnon said. “It’s always fun to go against top young guys. It’s a good measuring stick.”
MacKinnon feels he’s deserving of some attention with the season he has had so far but isn’t losing sleep over it.
“As a top young guy, I feel like I am,” he said. “I’m kind of living in my own bubble and focused on what I have to do and what the team has to do. I’ll let everyone else decide those things.”
He figured into all four goals, including drawing an interference call on Connor Brown with 3:27 left in overtime. The Avalanche controlled the puck for nearly two minutes and scored when Compher walked in and beat Pickard with a snap shot.
Toronto coach Mike Babcock didn’t agree with the interference call.
“I’m disappointed about going shorthanded in overtime, especially with the amount of calls that could have been made,” Babcock said. “That one shouldn’t have been made.”
Colorado took one-goal leads in the first and second periods, but each time Toronto (23-14-2) responded with quick answers.
After Kerfoot gave Colorado a 3-2 lead, Toronto pressed for the tying goal. Pickard came off for an extra skater with 2:45 left and van Riemsdyk tied it at 18:05.
“Anytime you can get a point, it’s big,” van Riemsdyk said. “We’re happy to get the point. Obviously, we’d like to get the second one.”
Varlamov made a big save on William Nylander’s point-blank shot from the slot late in the third. He also stopped Matthews and Tyler Bozak on quality chances in the period.
The Avalanche grabbed a 1-0 lead when MacKinnon picked up a rebound and beat Pickard with a backhand to score his 16th of the season at 11:24 of the first.
Toronto tied it later in the period when Martin’s centering puck from the backboards went off the skate of Colorado’s Blake Comeau and past Varlamov at 14:55. It was Martin’s third of the season.
MacKinnon set up Rantanen’s 12th goal of the season midway through the second period to make it 2-1 but Polak tied it on a sharp-angle shot 3:35 later.
Pickard was making his season debut after being called up from the AHL. He met the team in Denver and faced his former team and many of his buddies.
“I’m friends with a lot of guys over there, and it’s my first NHL game this season, so it was pretty unique,” Pickard said. “I just had to channel those emotions. It was tough losing in overtime, but it was a big and well-earned point at the end.”
NOTES: The Avalanche have killed off 30 straight penalties and have not allowed a power-play goal in 10 games. ... Toronto G Calvin Pickard was recalled from the Marlies of the AHL because of a lower-body injury suffered by usual backup Curtis McElhinney. Pickard was 10-5-0 with a 2.20 goals-against average and .919 save percentage with the Marlies. ... Avalanche D Andrei Mironov, recalled from San Antonio of the AHL on Thursday, was a healthy scratch. RW Nail Yakupov was also scratched. ... Maple Leafs C Nazem Kadri was scratched with an upper-body injury. ... Mikko Rantanen’s goal extended his point streak to a career-long eight games.