Cale Makar has only played 40 games this season, but he has already scored more goals than any other rookie defenseman in franchise history.
Makar recorded his 11th marker of the season with 3:36 remaining in the second period to break a 2-all tie for the Colorado Avalanche and help give the club a 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday afternoon at Pepsi Center.
The unassisted tally by the 21-year-old moved him past John-Michael Liles for first in goals by a rookie D-man in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history. Liles set the single-season record while skating in 79 games during the 2003-04 campaign; there are still 34 contests left on Colorado's schedule this year.
Makar now has goals in back-to-back outings, both Avs wins after they defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-0 on Thursday. Colorado has points in all four games during its season-long, five-game homestand at Pepsi Center (2-0-2), with one contest remaining before heading into the All-Star Break and bye week.
"Everybody's playing their game. I think we are just playing confident as a team right now," Makar said of the win. "It's just got to be something that we have to continue. It's awesome that we're going to be able to do this going into the break here--obviously we have one more game to do it."
Video: STL@COL: Makar scores to set franchise rookie mark
The rookie's tally against the conference-leading Blues showed off his awareness of the situation after gathering the puck at the point. Noticing the St. Louis players had been on the ice for a bit, Makar tip-toed with the puck along the goal line to some open ice on the other side and unleased a wrister that got past goaltender Jordan Binnington while teammate Mikko Rantanen provided a screen.
"I knew they were a little tired. I saw the guy in front of me, and he didn't really move much," Makar recalled of the sequence. "I had a little bit of room at the blue line and started walking. Guys created some space for me, moving to different spots. Luckily good screen and was able to put it into the net."
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said after the game that he prefers his skaters to shoot the puck from the point and get it on net in that type of situation, but he also appreciates the skill that some of his players, like Makar, have in being able to call an audible and not turn over the puck.
"We get it, we have some presence in front of the net I believe, and we got a lane to shoot it. He elects not to." Bednar said. "He uses his skating, which he is going to hold on to it, use your legs as a solution. He drives by two guys and gets into a little better area, surprises the goalie with the shot. Not everyone has that ability."
Video: Cale Makar after the win against the Blues
Makar's goal brings his season-point total to 35, which moves him past Liles and into sole possession of second place on the franchise scoring list for a rookie defenseman. Only the Quebec Nordiques' Bruce Bell produced more with 37 points in 1984-85.
Makar is also trailing Bell (31, 1984-85) for the most assist by a first-year blueliner, as he's tied with Liles for second with 24 helpers.
Among rookies this season, Makar's 35 points rank tied for first among all players in scoring while his 11 tallies are first for rear guards and tied for third overall. The last Avalanche rookie skater to record at least 35 points was forward Alexander Kerfoot, who registered 43 during the 2017-18 campaign.
MORE D-MAN SCORING
Contributing on Nathan MacKinnon's game-opening goal, Samuel Girard picked up his 12th assist in the last nine games and his 16th helper in the past 17 contests.
Girard's 10 assists since Jan. 1 are tied with the Washington Capitals' John Carlson for the most in the calendar year. He ranks second among Avs defensemen in scoring with 26 points and first with 25 assists.
Fellow blueliner Ian Cole finished with two assists to match a career high for a game (12th time overall). It was his fourth multi-point game of the campaign, equaling the most he's produced in a season in his career (2016-17).
Nathan MacKinnon became the third player in the NHL this season to reach the 70-point threshold after producing a goal and an assist against the Blues. Only the Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (76) and Leon Draisaitl (75) have picked up more points this season.
MacKinnon notched his 70th point in his 48th game for the second straight season, the second-fastest Avs player to hit the mark. The only one to do it quicker was Mikko Rantanen in 47 games in 2018-19.
The goal was his 28th the year, tied for fourth most in the NHL with Buffalo's Jack Eichel as of Saturday afternoon. He is two tallies away from becoming just the second Avs player to post three consecutive seasons of 30 goals or more (Joe Sakic, 2003-04 to 2006-07).
Video: STL@COL: MacKinnon hammers home Girard feed in front
The Avalanche was playing its first of four home afternoon games this season and the first of two straight day affairs for the team. Colorado hosts the Detroit Red Wings on Monday at 1 p.m. MT on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Colorado is now 3-0-0 on the year in day games after previously picking up road wins against the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 25 (6-1) and the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 29 (5-2). The Avs have now outscored their opponents by a 16-6 margin in afternoon contests.
Saturday's victory for the Avalanche evened the season series against the Blues at 2-2-0 after the squad dropped the first two outings in St. Louis on Oct. 21 and Dec. 16. The teams will wrap up their yearly set in the regular-season finale on April 4 in Denver.
Andre Burakovsky recorded an assist on Tyson Jost's goal in the second period and now has 100 in his six-season NHL career. Burakovsky finished with a two-point night by also adding his 14th goal, which ended as the game-winner--his fourth of the season.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare registered his 11th assist of the year to set a new single-season career high, surpassing his previous best of 10 during the 2017-18 campaign with Vegas.
The Avs scored at least five goals in a game for the 13th time this season and are now 13-0-0 when tallying five or more times in a contest in 2019-20.
Colorado and St. Louis combined for only nine shots on goal in the first period.