The Pittsburgh Penguins have missed the playoffs the last two seasons. Although the team has improved under new Coach Bob Berry and with the addition of talented rookie Mario Lemieux, the Penguins' chances of being in the postseason tournament this season didn't look good.
Until Saturday, that is.
In a complete turnaround, the Penguins, playing probably their best game of the season, trounced the New York Rangers, 5-0, at Pittsburgh to suddenly move into position to challenge for a playoff spot.
Mike Bullard and Lemieux scored first-period goals and veteran netminder Denis Herron stopped 26 shots to key the victory. The Penguins are now three points behind the fading Rangers in the battle for fourth place in the Patrick Division. The Rangers, 0-4-1 in their last five games, have played one more game than the Penguins.
"If we had lost, we wouldn't have been eliminated statistically, but it was a four-point switch," Berry said. "We had a great effort from everybody. They played their hearts out. There's no question in my mind this was our best game of the season."
The 23rd victory is seven more than the Penguins had all last season, but it was only their second victory in the last seven games.
Calgary 5, Boston 3--Carey Wilson flipped a backhander over goalie Pete Peeters' shoulder for his second goal and the game-winner in the third period at Boston.
The Bruins, especially Coach Harry Sinden, thought they lost because of the brilliance of goaltender Reggie Lemelin, who stopped 36 shots.
"We could have played another five hours and not got the puck past him," Sinden said. "We outplayed them, but they outscored us and that's what counts. They had the ingredients in goal."
New York Islanders 6, Washington 4--Duane Sutter's 40-foot blast with six minutes remaining at Uniondale, N.Y. assured the Islanders their fourth consecutive victory.
John Tonelli scored twice and Mike Bossy scored his 54th for the Islanders in a preview of the likely first-round pairings in the playoffs.
The last two seasons the Islanders have eliminated the Capitals.
The win may have been costly for the Islanders. Center Brent Sutter suffered a dislocated shoulder and may be out a month.
Philadelphia 6, Toronto 1--Ron Sutter scored the Flyers' 5,000th all-time goal and it proved to be the winner at Toronto. The victory enabled the Flyers to increase their lead in the Patrick Division to four points.
The Maple Leafs, who lost their club-record 46th game, were without their captain, Rick Vaive. Vaive and Coach Dan Maloney got in a shouting match at practice Friday and Vaive was benched.
Minnesota 4, Montreal 2--Rookie Dirk Graham scored a goal and assisted on two others at Montreal to lead the North Stars to victory.
There were three fights in the physical game and referee Kerry Fraser handed out 60 minutes in penalties in the last period.
Hartford 5, St. Louis 0--Goaltender Steve Weeks stopped 28 shots at St. Louis to enable the Whalers to end a six-game winless streak. Risto Siltanen scored the only goal Weeks needed on a power play that ignited a three-goal outburst.