The Montreal Canadiens had more to gain than the Boston Bruins, and the Adams Division leaders showed it Saturday at Boston Garden.
"We played very aggressive. The guys were ready," Montreal Coach Jacques Lemaire said after his team broke a 3-3 tie in the second period and rolled to a 7-3 victory. "They know it's tight for first, second and third place. We still have a chance to finish first."
Mats Naslund's power-play goal at 13:20 of the second period snapped the 3-3 tie, and Mark Hunter added a goal 28 seconds later to spark the Canadiens.
"You have to be aggressive if you want to compete against Boston," Lemaire said. "They specialize in forechecking and their defensemen are trying to get a lot of loose pucks in the offensive zone and if you're not sharp before the game starts, you can end up two or three goals behind."
The Canadiens were sharp.
"They played a smart game," Boston Coach Harry Sinden said. "They beat us along the boards and in the corners and in front of the net. That's how you win in this building."
Naslund and Bobby Smith had two goals each for Montreal, which extended its winning streak to three games.
Fourth-place Boston, 2-5-1 in its last eight games, was eliminated from the race for the Adams Division title it won last year.
Quebec 3, St. Louis 1--The Nordiques won at Quebec and remained tied for first place in the Adams Division thanks to two goals and an assist from Michel Goulet.
Goulet's goals were his 51st and 52nd of the season. Wilf Paiement scored the Nordiques' other goal, while Denis Cyr netted for the Blues.
Detroit 9, Toronto 3--Steve Yzerman scored three goals in the third period to power the Red Wings to the win at Toronto. Danny Gare added two goals and Kelly Kisio had a goal and three assists to fuel the rout.
Detroit scored seven goals in the third period, two short of the NHL single-period record set by Buffalo in a game against Toronto on March 19, 1981.
Washington 4, N.Y. Islanders 3--Craig Laughlin scored two power-play goals in the first period in front of a sellout crowd of 18,130 at Landover, Md., as the Capitals handed the Islanders their third consecutive defeat.
The Capitals took the season series from the Islanders by a 4-3 margin, the first time they have topped the Islanders in 11 NHL seasons.
New Jersey 6, Pittsburgh 4--The Devils continued their mastery of the Penguins and kept alive their slim playoff hopes with a victory at East Rutherford, N.J.
The victory enabled the Devils, 22-45-9, to tie Pittsburgh, 24-46-5, for fifth place in the Patrick Division, five points behind the New York Rangers, who now hold fourth place and the last playoff spot.
Buffalo 2, Hartford 1--A pair of late goals from Lindy Ruff and Gates Orlando at Hartford, Conn., ended the Whalers' seven-game winning streak, their longest in the NHL, and handed them their first defeat in 10 games.
Philadelphia 3, N.Y. Rangers 0--The Flyers, who already have clinched the Patrick Division title, scored their 50th win of the season and their 13th straight at the Spectrum.