J.T. Compher scored a go-ahead goal in the third period, Philipp Grubauer made 36 saves, and the Colorado Avalanche preserved their chances to finish in first place in the West Division with a 2-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night.
Andre Burakovsky also scored for the Avalanche, who trail the Golden Knights by two points atop the division. Vegas has game left, Colorado has two.
Alex Pietrangelo scored for the Golden Knights. Robin Lehner, facing the Avalanche for the first time this season after Marc-Andre Fleury was in net the first seven meetings, stopped 19 shots.
Billed as the most important game of the year for both, neither team disappointed with every inch of space, despite key players missing from both lineups.
Vegas was limited to 15 skaters due to cap restraints and used 10 forwards with five defensemen.
Forward Peyton Krebs suffered a fractured jaw in Saturday’s victory over St. Louis when he was struck with a shot during the second period and is out indefinitely, general manager Kelly McCrimmon said before the game. Defenseman Alec Martinez, who made nine of the team’s 17 blocked shots, was also injured against the Blues and did not play Monday. Forwards Max Pacioretty, Ryan Reaves, and Tomas Nosek remained out of the lineup with injuries.
Colorado, which got star center Nathan Mackinnon back after missing two games, scratched six players, including regular contributors left wing Brandon Saad and defenseman Samuel Girard, who have combined for 55 points this season.
Vegas opened the scoring in the first period, when Pietrangelo fired a rebound of Nic Hague’s shot from the point, with a one-timer from the right dot over the left shoulder of Grubauer.
Alex Tuch had a chance to make it 2-0 when he skated in with William Carrier on an odd-man rush but missed a wide-open net.
The Avalanche, whose second-period plus-36 goal differential is the best in the NHL in any period, got an equalizer seven minutes into the middle frame when Burakovsky waltzed through the slot and lasered a wrist shot glove side to make it 1-1.
Grubauer was a big reason the game remained tied after two periods, as Vegas had 30 scoring chances, compared to Colorado’s 13.
The Avalanche took their first lead of the game when they took advantage of a rather sluggish line change by Vegas in the third period. After the Golden Knights cleared the puck to the neutral zone and made their switch, Compher bolted from the Colorado bench and grabbed the puck while skating into the zone to start the play by dumping it to Conor Timmins, who passed to Alex Newhook. Newhook sent the puck to the crease, where Compher was there to knock it past Lehner and provide the final margin.
Colorado: Opens a season-ending two-game home series vs. Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Vegas: Finishes the regular season at San Jose on Wednesday.
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