John MacLean scored twice Saturday night at East Rutherford, N.J., to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals and give the Devils wins in their first two games for the first time in their history.
The Devils, who began as the Kansas City Scouts in 1974, have never won more than 22 games in a season. The only time they made the playoffs was in 1977-78, when they won only 19 but played in the weakest division, the Smythe.
Now, they play in the Patrick Division, probably the most competitive in the National Hockey League, and the Devils are a unanimous choice to finish last.
However, they have beaten the two teams generally expected to battle it out for the Division title. In a shocking opening-game performance at Philadelphia Thursday night, they spotted the powerful Flyers a 3-0 lead in the first period and stormed back to earn a 6-5 victory.
In this game, they beat a team that had the third-best record in the league last season. It was the second loss in a row for the Capitals, who fell behind early and never made a run at the Devils.
They trailed, 4-0, after 40 minutes, and New Jersey goaltender Glenn Resch had stopped all 19 of their shots. Resch lost his bid for a shutout when Mike Gartner converted on a power-play opportunity in the first minute of the third period.
It figured that the 37-year-old Resch would be ready for a supreme effort against the Capitals. In a surprise move, Coach Doug Carpenter had given rookie Alain Chevrier the starting job in the nets for the opening game. Resch had been the No. 1 goalie for the Devils since he joined them in 1981, when they were the Colorado Rockies.
"I thought I had a pretty good camp," Resch said. "It was a semi-surprise when I didn't start the opener. It would have been a shock if I had not played in this one."
The Capitals lost their coach, Bryan Murray, early in the second period. Murray was ejected by referee Andy Van Hellemond for unsportsmanlike conduct. Murray had protested because a penalty was not called on the Devils when one of their players left the penalty box one second too soon.
Midway through the second period, MacLean scored his second goal, and the Capitals replaced goaltender Pat Riggin with Al Jensen. Riggin gave up four goals on just eight shots.
Hartford 8, New York Rangers 2--The Whalers are another doormat team that appears ready to wake up. In this game at Hartford, Conn., the Whalers scored four power-play goals, two of them by Ray Ferraro, and had an easy time beating the Rangers.
Although the Whalers have been last in the Adams Division for four seasons in a row, they showed signs of becoming competitive late last season. In their last 15 games, the Whalers were 9-3-3.
They continued their improved play in the exhibition season, going unbeaten (5-0-1). In the regular-season opener, they shocked Buffalo, 6-5.
In this game, they spotted the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the first three minutes, but goaltender Mike Liut did an about-face and stopped the last 31 Ranger shots.
Montreal 6, Chicago 3--The Canadiens were forced to break up last season's top scoring line, but it hasn't bothered their leading scorer, Mats Naslund.
Naslund, who scored two goals in a 5-3 victory at Pittsburgh Thursday night, had two goals and two assists in the Canadiens' home opener.
Last season, the diminutive left wing was on a line with Pierre Mondou and Mario Tremblay. But Mondou has retired, and Tremblay is injured. So, the Canadiens have teamed rookie center Stephane Richer and Lucien DeBlois with Naslund, and the trio has clicked from the start.
Boston 9, Detroit 2--Charlie Simmer scored twice during a four-goal first-period outburst at Detroit that enabled the Bruins to cruise to their second victory in a row.
Simmer completed his sixth career hat trick in the first minute of the last period.
Quebec 4, Toronto 0--Veteran center Dale Hunter scored a goal and assisted on two others at Toronto, and goalie Mario Gosselin made 22 saves to register the shutout.
The Nordiques are 2-0, while the Maple Leafs, who had the worst record in the league last season, are 0-2.
St. Louis 4, Vancouver 3--Mark Hunter, one of seven new Blues, scored on a deflection with slightly more than three minutes remaining at Vancouver to give the Blues a victory in their opening game.
Buffalo 6, Minnesota 2--Dave Andreychuk scored twice, and goaltender Tom Barrasso stopped 28 shots at Bloomington, Minn., to spoil the North Stars' home opener.
Philadelphia 4, Pittsburgh 2--Murray Craven scored the winning goal with fewer than six minutes remaining at Pittsburgh to give the Flyers the victory.