Until Mario Lemieux of Pittsburgh started piling up the points this season, Wayne Gretzky had not been challenged for a scoring title since his first NHL season. That was 1979-80, when the Kings' Marcel Dionne and the Edmonton star each finished with 137 points.
Lemieux, with 17 points, is off to a Gretzky-like start and, after six games held a one-point lead.
Gretzky has responded to the challenge. In the first 11 minutes of the Oilers' 9-1 romp over the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night at Edmonton, Gretzky had a goal and two assists.
As he spurred the Oilers to their first impressive performance of the season, Gretzky regained the scoring lead. He finished with two goals and three assists and has collected 21 points in seven games. If Lemieux can keep up the pace, he can force Gretzky to break all his own records.
The Oilers, who split their first six games, dominated from the outset. They outshot the Blackhawks, 45-21. Midway through the last period, Al Secord spoiled goalie Grant Fuhr's bid for a shutout.