When Jacques Demers took over as coach of the Detroit Red Wings this season, he had two immediate goals.
First, he wanted to cut down on a goals-against record that was the worst in the National Hockey League last season. And, he wanted to change the attitude that had seen the Red Wings qualify for the playoffs only four times in the past 21 seasons.
Demers, who did an outstanding job as coach of the St. Louis Blues last season, seems to have achieved both goals. The Red Wings have the second-best goals-against record in the league and they are winning more than half their games.
Last season, after spending more than $7.5 million on free agents, the Red Wings won only 17 of 80 games. They were the flop of the season, giving up 415 goals and earning only 40 points, the lowest total since 1930-31 when teams played only 44 games during the regular season.
Petr Klima, a Czech defector scored with a little over 10 minutes remaining Sunday at Detroit to give the Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Detroit is now 7-6-1 and has a firm hold on second place in the Norris Division.
Pittsburgh defenseman Doug Bodger's goal early in the third period off rookie netminder Sam St. Laurent was only the 38th goal given up by the Red Wings in 14 games.
A year ago, Klima, signed as a free agent for a reported $2.5 million, was just one of numerous disappointments. He finished with 32 goals, but most of them came long after the Red Wings were out of the race.
The Red Wings did not win last season until their 10th game and had lost 13 before they won their seventh.
Klima is the chief offensive threat for the Red Wings. On his game-winning goal, his 12th of the season, the 21-year-old left wing was hooked by the Penguins' Bob Errey, but as he was falling to the ice, Klima fired the puck into the net.
"It was one of the greatest goals I ever saw," Demers said. "The way he kept control of the puck as he was falling made it an exceptional goal."
Winnipeg 8, New Jersey 1--Despite blizzard conditions that closed many roads in Winnipeg, 10,722 fans showed up for the game. The Devils, who did not arrive until two hours before the opening faceoff because of the weather problems, were sorry they showed up.
Dave Steen, who failed to score in his first eight games this season, scored three goals and assisted on two more to lead the rout.
Rookie goalie Daniel Berthiaume gave up a goal to Cladue Loiselle four minutes into the game, then blanked the Devils the rest of the way. It was his third win without a defeat.
St. Louis 4, Chicago 4--After being stranded in Winnipeg since Friday because of the blizzard, an overtime game was something the Blues did not need. They arrived only a couple of hours before game, whose start was delayed 45 minutes.
The Blues built a 4-2 lead in the first 31 minutes before tiring. Troy Murray scored his sixth goal to get the Blackhawks close and they tied it when Denis Savard scored early in the third period.
It was the second goal of the game for Savard, who has eight this season.
The Blues had two shots in the five-minute overtime, while the Blackhawks had only one.
Calgary 3, Montreal 0--Goaltender Mike Vernon stopped 22 shots at Calgary to register his first shutout of the season and lead the Flames to their fifth victory in a row.
Nick Fotiu and Al MacInnis scored goals five minutes apart in the second period to provide Vernon with the cushion he needed.
New York Islanders 4, Buffalo 3--Mike Bossy scored his seventh goal of the season early in the third period at Buffalo to climax a four-goal comeback. The Sabres scored three goals in the first 18 minutes off Billy Smith, then couldn't get another.
Quebec 6, New York Rangers 5--Anton Stastny scored twice late in the third period at Quebec to bring the Nordiques from behind and end their five-game winless streak.