Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

“I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

“It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

“It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

“We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

“I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

“It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar signs extension through 2026-27

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DENVER — Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar has signed a three-year extension that will keep him in charge of the reigning Stanley Cup champions through the 2026-27 season.

The new deal for the winningest head coach in club history kicks in once the current contract runs out after the 2023-24 season.

Bednar, 51, is the only person to win championships in the ECHL, AHL and NHL as head coach. He directed the Avalanche to their third Stanley Cup title in team history last season by beating Tampa Bay, the two-time defending champions.

This season, the Avalanche have dealt with an array of injuries, which include missing captain Gabriel Landeskog all year after he underwent knee surgery in October. But they’re starting to creep closer to being healthy – and working their way up the standings. Colorado is riding a six-game winning streak to remain in a tight race with Dallas and Minnesota for the Central Division crown. The top spot in the Western Conference is in play, too.

“Jared has done a tremendous job behind the bench and certainly deserves this extension and to continue as the leader of our team,” Joe Sakic, the team’s president of hockey operations, said in a statement.

It wasn’t the prettiest of starts for Bednar in his inaugural season for Colorado. In 2016-17, his team amassed only 48 points (22-56-4) to finish last in the league. Since then, it’s been full steam ahead for Bednar and the Avalanche. They became the first NHL squad to go from worst to first in a span of four seasons or less since the 1970-71 Bruins, according to research by the team.

In addition, Bednar has led the Avalanche to five straight playoff appearances – and is closing in on a sixth – to become the first Avalanche coach to accomplish the feat. His 40 postseason wins are the second-most in team history, trailing only Bob Hartley (49).

“His strength as a communicator, his relationship with the players, the way he prepares each and every day is a huge reason our team has been so successful,” general manager Chris MacFarland said. “He is an exceptional leader.”

Bednar is currently the third-longest tenured coach in the league, behind only Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan (December 2015).

“Being able to lead this team over the last seven years has been a privilege,” said Bednar, whose team faces the Penguins on Wednesday. “I am grateful and excited to have the opportunity to continue building on what we’ve accomplished so far.”

Bednar captured a Kelly Cup (ECHL) with the South Carolina Stingrays in 2009, along with a Calder Cup (AHL) with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2016.

MacKinnon’s shootout goal gives Avs 2-1 win over Maple Leafs

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TORONTO — Nathan MacKinnon was the only scorer in the shootout as the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1.

Mikko Rantanen scored in regulation for Colorado (38-22-6).

MacKinnon’s five-game goal streak came to an end, but his play carried Colorado to the win.

“Been playing awesome,” Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram said of MacKinnon, who entered with 15 goals in his last 15 games. “He’s the guy that our team follows. When he’s going, I feel like everyone else is sharper.”

Alexandar Georgiev made 17 saves for injury-ravaged Colorado (38-22-6), which has found its game since the All-Star break and climbed within five points of the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars with two games in hand.

“That dedication to the way we have to play to have success is the key to it,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said. “Some nights we’re as good as we want to be. Seems like recently we’ve wanted to win these hockey games. We know they’re important. Winning the division isn’t the be all, end all. But certainly to have short-term goals like that and chase down the teams that are in front of us is part of it.

“It’s part of playing with a little bit of pressure, even if it’s self-induced.”

Morgan Rielly scored for Toronto (40-18-9). Ilya Samsonov stopped 28 shots.

“There wasn’t a whole lot that we gave up,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “They checked extremely hard to show you what a Stanley Cup-winning team does in terms of the defending.

“They’re well-known for the offense that they can generate with their elite players, but they defend extremely hard and make it difficult on you to get to their net.”

After a frantic overtime in which both teams had terrific chances, MacKinnon beat Samsonov on a nice deke on the Avalanche’s second shot.

Georgiev then denied Mitch Marner for Colorado, which improved to 4-4 in shootouts. Toronto dropped to 0-2 in shootouts.

Coming off A 4-3 home loss to Buffalo on Monday in which Toronto held a 2-0 lead late in the second period, the Maple Leafs opened the scoring three minutes into the first when Rielly scored his third, after earlier hitting the post.

The Avalanche responded on a power play later in the period, when Rantanen’s pass went in off Toronto defenseman Jake McCabe for his 44th of the season.

Samsonov stopped Valeri Nichushkin on a short-handed breakaway in the second before Cale Makar nearly went end-to-end on a rush, but the puck trickled wide.

Georgiev matched his Russian counterpart at the other end by denying Rielly on a power play and Calle Jarnkrok from in close to keep things even through 40 minutes.

After the Maple Leafs killed two penalties early in the third, William Nylander and Auston Matthews had a good chance on Georgiev.


Ratanen’s 44 goals are the most by a Finnish-born player since Teemu Selanne scored 48 in 2006-07.


Marner factored in on the game-opening goal for the 19th time this season, which trails only MacKinnon (20) for the most among all players.


Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who has yet to play this season, continues to work his way back from knee surgery.

Colorado head coach Jared Bednar said following Tuesday’s practice there’s still no timeline for the winger’s return.

“Making progress,” Bednar said. “Gonna keep grinding to get back as soon as he can. I don’t know when that will be. I don’t know if it’ll be regular season, beginning of post-season. It’s all going to be up to him.”


Luke Schenn returned to Scotiabank Arena as a member of the Maple Leafs for the first time in more than a decade.

Acquired from Vancouver prior to the trade deadline, the veteran defenseman rejoined the club after his wife recently gave birth to the couple’s third child.

The Leafs selected Schenn, who didn’t dress against Colorado, with the fifth overall pick in 2008 before trading him to Philadelphia in 2012.

“Coming into this dressing room, it’s surreal,” the 33-year-old said Wednesday morning. “You appreciate what it means to play in Toronto, but not to the extent I do now.”


Artturi Lehkonen will be out at least four weeks with a broken finger suffered in Colorado’s 8-4 victory over Montreal on Monday, adding to the club’s season-long injury misery.

The winger was scheduled to have surgery Wednesday in Colorado.

“One of our identity guys,” Bednar said. “One of the hardest-working guys on the ice in every single game.”


Avalanche: At Ottawa on Thursday in the third game of a four-game trip.

Maple Leafs: Host Carolina on Friday in the finale of a four-game homestand.

Cale Makar cleared to return 2nd time from concussion protocol

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DENVER — Defenseman Cale Makar has been cleared to return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup after two different hits over an 11-day span landed him both times in the league’s concussion protocol.

“Ready to go,” Makar told reporters about his plans to play in Dallas.

The Norris Trophy winner missed five straight games and nine of the last 10 due to two separate hits involving his head. He suffered the first one Feb. 7 at Pittsburgh, returned to play a game but then left again after taking a glove to his visor at St. Louis on Feb. 18.

“I can’t put myself in positions to take those kind of hits,” Makar said after practice. “But at the same time stuff happens. Couple of unlucky bounces.”

Makar leads the league in ice time with an average of nearly 27 minutes a game. He’s also tops among Colorado defensemen with 13 goals and 45 points.

The Stanley Cup champions took care of business in his absence. They trail the Stars by six points for the top spot in the Central Division (and played three fewer games than Dallas).

“I love watching hockey. But I hate watching my own games,” the 24-year-old Makar said. “These things take time and I think us as a team and individuals understand that. There’s no pressure from anybody in terms of trying to rush back.

“Obviously, there’s jokes and stuff, guys want you to come back earlier, but at points like this, you have to do what’s in your best interest. I’ve felt I kind of put that at the forefront lately and the team’s helped me do that.”

Makar took his first hit to the head in a collision with Pittsburgh’s Jeff Carter on Feb. 7. Makar passed all of the NHL’s concussion testing to clear protocol and told team medical staff that he felt good about returning.

In his first game back on Feb. 18, Makar was reinjured early in the third period when St. Louis forward Alexey Toropchenko made contact with his face with his right glove as they went after a loose puck.

Makar explained that his symptoms were mild after the second hit, but didn’t rush back in light of the first one.

“I’m not going to put myself in a situation where I can hurt myself more,” Makar said. “I would have been more inclined to feel like playing if I didn’t have that first collision after this one. I think it would have been fine. Obviously you don’t want these things to compound.”

He added: “There are so many things that we still have to learn about injuries like this. I still think the league does its best to protect guys from this.”

NOTES: Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said defenseman Josh Manson was going to miss some time. Bednar said it’s related to a lower-body injury that kept Manson out for 31 games from Dec. 3 to Feb. 14. … Forward Valeri Nichushkin was sick and Bednar wasn’t sure if he would play.

Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar back in concussion protocol

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar is back in concussion protocol after taking contact to his head for a second time in under two weeks, another blow for the defending Stanley Cup champions and their reigning playoff MVP.

Coach Jared Bednar provided the update on Makar’s status, ruling out the 24-year-old Norris Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy winner for at least the team’s next two games.

Makar was reinjured early in the third period in his first game back when St. Louis forward Alexey Toropchenko made contact with his head. He already missed Colorado’s game against Edmonton.

Bednar said Makar’s head injuries were “obviously related” and did not think the play alone would have caused this development.

Makar had been out since taking a hit to the head on Feb. 7 from Pittsburgh’s Jeff Carter. Bednar said Makar passed all the NHL’s concussion testing to clear protocol and told team medical staff that he felt good about returning.

“He comes back in, he feels better, he takes the time he needs, he’s feeling good to play, he’s passed all the tests, he comes back in and he gets bumped again,” Bednar said. “I don’t think that he goes into protocol on the hit in St. Louis with the glove to the face on any other occasion, likely, except for the fact that he’s just coming out of one.”

Makar missed four games last month with an unrelated lower-body injury before coming back before the All-Star break. Makar this season is averaging a league-high 26:57 of ice time and producing at a nearly point-a-game level with 13 goals and 32 assists.

Bednar defended the league’s concussion protocol and how the Avalanche handled it with Makar when asked repeatedly.

“We follow it,” He said. “It’s crystal clear. There’s really no wiggle room in it. Sometimes players get delayed symptoms. He came in the other night and he had a headache and some pressure in his head, and that’s all we have to hear and he’s out. It’s automatic.”

Bednar confirmed Makar was pulled from the Feb. 7 game against the Penguins by a concussion spotter in place to observe obvious signs of head injuries. NHL protocol also calls for mandatory baseline testing and six stages of progression a player needs to pass through before getting back on the ice in a game.

“We listen to the player once all the tests are passed,” Bednar said. “The protocol’s in place because they deem it the best protocol to make sure players are safe and able or unable to return to play. And when they are able, then they will return to play.”

Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev missed practice to undergo dental work and is expected to be full go, according to Bednar, who also said defenseman Josh Manson was out for maintenance reasons. Bednar said veteran defenseman Erik Johnson is “possibly” done for the season because of a broken ankle.

The Avalanche have been one of the most banged-up teams in the league this season, missing Makar, top center Nathan MacKinnon and others for long stretches. Captain Gabriel Landeskog, who hoisted the Cup last summer to celebrate the franchise’s third championship, still has not made his season debut following knee surgery in October.