Crosby for 1PPG seasons

Sidney Crosby had two goals and an assist in a 5-2 win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Monday, meaning he will average at least a point per game for the 19th season, tying Wayne Gretzky for the most in NHL history.

"That's cool," Crosby said. "Obviously, something that I didn't want to talk about. I knew was getting closer, and any time you can be in that company, it's pretty cool."

The 36-year-old center leads the Pittsburgh Penguins in goals (37), assists (45) and points (82) in 74 games this season. He has never averaged less than a point per game since being selected No. 1 by Pittsburgh in the 2005 NHL Draft.

"It's remarkable. To perform at an elite level for as long as he has is remarkable, and I think his body of work speaks for itself, every milestone that he gets," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I wasn't aware of that one. And so it doesn't surprise me. I just think all of these milestones that he's reaching at this point are just more evidence that he's one of the greatest players of all time, not just of his generation, but he's in elite company in all these categories."

Like Crosby, Gretzky also averaged at least a point per game in each of his first 19 NHL seasons after debuting with the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 10, 1979. In his 20th and final season in 1998-99, he had 62 points (nine goals, 53 assists) in 70 games with the New York Rangers.

Gretzky finished his career with 2,857 points (894 goals, 1,963 assists) in 1,487 games, the most in NHL history.

Crosby is second in Penguins history in goals (587), assists (997) and points (1,584), behind Mario Lemieux (1,723 points; 690 goals, 1,033 assists). He is also seven points away from passing Phil Esposito (1,590) for 10th in NHL history.

“It’s elite company,” Sullivan said March 27. “Every milestone that he hits at this point, he’s in such elite company. He’s one of the greatest players of all-time, not just one of the greatest players of his generation. All of these milestones that he’s reaching is just hard evidence of that.

“He’s accomplished so much in this game. His legacy of winning is well chronicled, and that’s part of it.”

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Among his accolades, Crosby has won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer twice (2006-07, 20013-14), the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the leading goal-scorer twice (2009-10, 2016-17), the Ted Lindsay Award, given annually to the most outstanding player in the NHL as voted by members of the NHL Players' Association, three times (2006-07, 2012-13, 2013-14), the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player twice (2006-07, 2013-14), and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs twice (2015-16, 2016-17).

"There's not much to say that hasn't already been said," Penguins goalie Alex Nedeljkovic said. "I mean, it's incredible to watch. ... The points and stuff are great, obviously. He's going to go down as a great player, but I think he's a lot more than just a goal-scorer or point-scorer. ... It's just doing the little things and it's what makes him a leader and it's what makes him one of the best leaders I think that's played this game, if not the best."

In Crosby's first 17 NHL seasons, the Penguins qualified for the playoffs 16 times, including winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, 2016 and 2017.

However, they failed to qualify for the playoffs last season for the first time since 2005-06, ending the longest streak in NHL history. And this season, Pittsburgh (33-30-11) is five points behind the Washington Capitals for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

“I think there's always challenges. Obviously they're a little bit different,” Crosby said March 27. “But ultimately it's about being a team and playing as a group and making sure that everybody feels a part of it and that everybody's having fun playing as best you can.

“Obviously winning, it makes things a lot easier, but I think it's just always about trying to set an example and trying to make sure that you're leading the way in that regard.” staff writer David Satriano contributed to this report