DENVER – Arturi Lehkonen, Andrew Colliano and Alex Newhook scored against a former teammate Darcy Kemper and the rising Colorado Avalanche defeated the Washington Capitals 3-2 to give coach Jared Bednar his franchise-record 266th win.
Logan O’Connor added two gears, Nathan McKinnon made an assist on his 700th score and Alexander Georgiev made 37 saves in the Aws’ sixth straight win of the season. They finished third in the Central Division, one point ahead of Minnesota.
Bednar, who coached his 500th game with Colorado, improved to 266-185-49 and passed former Quebec Nordiques boss Michel Bergeron for the most coaching wins in franchise history.
Alexey Ovechkin returned from injury and scored his 31st goal for Washington. Conor Shiri also scored, and Kemper saved 23 shots in his first game in Denver since helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in June.
The crowd stood and cheered after the video of Kemper in the first period, who won 37 games in the regular season and 10 more in the playoffs.
The Avs decided not to renew Kemper, who signed a five-year contract with the Capitals in July.
He had his moments against his former team, including dainty glove saves against Jacob McDonald and Lehkonen in the second period to keep the game to one goal. But Newhook’s goal 4:21 before the end of the second made the score 3:1.
The exhausted Capitals dominated the third period but still lost for the fifth time in seven games.
Ovechkin’s single goal at 9:44 of the third was his 811th goal since he missed his first game of the season on Saturday with a lower body injury. But Washington was without TJ Oshiwho went to his wife for the birth of their fourth child. And Niklas Backstrom had a late scratch with a non-COVID illness.
Then Tom Wilson came out in the second period after blocking the shot and was X-rayed between periods.
The Avalanche, who hadn’t been far behind during their winning streak, dealt with Kemper at 8:57 of the first when McKinnon absorbed a hard hit from Dmitry Orlov and fed to Lehkonen for his 15th and sixth goal in six games.
HE BROKEN THE CUP
It also marked the return of Washington Nicolas Aube-Kubelwith 22 points in 67 games for the Aves in 2021/22. He is remembered for dropping and crushing the Cup during an on-ice celebration.
“It’s part of my journey here,” Aube-Kübel said with a smile of his fumbling, adding that this season was “the best time of my life.”
NOTES: Avs D Cale Makar (upper body) trained on Monday and took part in the morning skating but missed his fourth game in a row. … Avs Tue Anton Blid withdrew refusals and skated on the fourth line. …Aleksey Protas was at the center of Washington’s third line in his first NHL game since Jan. 5, and was beaten by Georgiev in the first period. … The Capitals have just four games left outside the Eastern Time Zone.
Capitals: Host Pittsburgh.
Avalanche: Host Anaheim.
PITTSBURGH – Against the backdrop of a nightmare off-ice season, Chris Letang looking for joy. Feeling normal.
He found some of both.
The Pittsburgh veteran scored twice in his comeback from a lower body injury, the second with 54 seconds left in overtime to give the Penguins a 7-6 victory over Florida.
“I was just happy to be there,” Letang said. “Plunge into the atmosphere of the team.”
Letang’s 17th season with Pittsburgh was marked by health problems and a deep sense of loss. He missed two weeks after the second stroke of his career shortly after Thanksgiving. Then he tweaked something in his December 28 loss to Detroit.
His father passed away unexpectedly a few days later and Letang spent a lot of time with his family in his native Montreal, with his teammates making a surprise stop to join Letang for his father’s wake at the end of the West Coast swing earlier this month. .
The Penguins activated him from injured reserve on Tuesday afternoon. Letang responded with four points in a 13-goal romp, with Letang most recently scoring just over the left lap on the powerplay to give Pittsburgh only their fourth 12-overtime win this season.
“It was a little surreal, you know?” Letang said. “I didn’t know what to think and how things would go. These guys have been supporting me for the past month…it’s just great to be back.”
The Penguins, currently in eighth and last place in the Eastern Conference playoffs, have given a brief respite to the ninth-seeded Panthers, beating Florida for the 18th time in their last 21 trips to Pittsburgh.
“It was a very important two points for us,” DeSmit said. “Obviously we are fighting them in the standings. Character wins at home.”
Carter Verhage scored twice for Florida, including a tied goal with 2:32 left in regulation. Aaron Ocliffe scored a goal and made two assists. Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Reinhart each had a goal and an assist. Colin WhiteA sixth goal of the season 4:10 into the third put the Panthers ahead, but Florida couldn’t hold him.
Alex Lyon made 42 saves after the start when Spencer Knight was unavailable for reasons head coach Paul Maurice did not name. The Panthers have been 7-3-2 since January 1 to return to the brink of contention.
“At this time, we are much more of a different hockey team than we were a month ago,” Maurice said. “We rallied around each other, fought with all our might to get a point on the road in the circumstances we are in. I’m very proud.”
Neither Lyon nor DeSmit, who reported playing less than an hour before the first faceoff, looked ready to play on short notice. They conceded six goals – three from each team – in a wild first period that included Letang’s first goal since 15 December and Tkachuk’s 25th of the season.
In the second, everything was settled. Ekblad’s shorthanded goal put the Panthers ahead, but Crosby tied the game up 4-4 with a solid backhander on Lyon’s legs with 40 seconds left to set up a frenetic third period in which both teams squandered a one-goal lead .
“It wasn’t pretty, but sometimes you have to find ways to win,” Crosby said. “Today we did a good job on it.”
Panthers: Take Angeles on Friday night.
Penguins: In Washington on Thursday night.
PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Penguins Activate Veteran Guard Chris Letang off the injured reserve, clearing the way for him to play against Florida.
Letang, 35, has not played since suffering a lower-body injury on Dec. 28 during an overtime loss to Detroit. He has spent time in his native Montreal during his absence since his father’s death earlier this month.
It’s been a tough season for Letang, who signed a six-year contract extension with the Penguins this summer and scored two goals and 14 assists in 29 games. Letang missed two weeks in November and December due to a stroke for the second time in eight years.
Pittsburgh is hoping his return can provide momentum. The Penguins, who have made the playoffs for 16 straight seasons—the longest active postseason streak in North American major team sports—won eighth and last in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
OTTAWA – Ottawa Senators forward’s season ends Josh Norris.
General manager Pierre Dorion has said Norris will undergo shoulder surgery and will miss the remainder of the 2022/23 season.
Norris returned to the roster after missing 38 games with a shoulder injury.
This season, he has one goal and two assists in eight games.
The 23-year-old center scored 55 points (35 assists 20) in 66 games last season.
The Senators also announced the recall of AHL forward Ridley Greig from Belleville.
The team announced the change less than a week after President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford said “major surgery” was needed to fix the Canucks, who have only made the playoffs once in the past eight years. Rick Tocchet has been hired as Bruce Boudreau’s replacement for a Vancouver team that has lost 28 of 46 games this season.
“It was not an easy decision, but we felt it was necessary for this franchise,” general manager Patrick Alwyn said in a statement, thanking Boudreau for his contributions.
Boudreau waved to the crowd after the Canucks’ last loss, the third in their last four games. Shouts of “Bruce, that’s it!” to the tune of the Tag Team song “Whoomp! (That’s it)” echoed through the arena as a tribute to the respected 68-year-old hockey player, who is among the best regular season coaches in NHL history.
He is the second coach to be sacked by Vancouver in less than 14 months. Boudreau took over in December 2021 when previous coach Travis Green and general manager Jim Benning were fired 25 games last season.
Assistant Trent Cull has also been relieved of his duties, the team said. Adam Foot was appointed as an assistant and Sergei Gonchar as a defensive development coach in the state of Tokcheta.
Tochet previously coached the Tampa Bay Lightning for two seasons from 2008–2010 and the Arizona Coyotes for four years from 2017–21. He…