Left wing Paul Lawless broke out of a slump with a club-record six points Sunday night at Hartford to lead the Whalers to an 8-3 victory over Toronto and give them sole possession of first place in the Adams Division.
In the previous 17 games, Lawless had only one goal and six assists. But he scored twice and assisted on four other goals as the Whalers ended their first losing streak of the season. Until losing to Minnesota Wednesday and Chicago Saturday night, the Whalers had not lost twice in a row.
Lawless scored his first goal in the middle of a three-goal outburst in just 63 seconds of the first period. He assisted on linemate Stewart Gavin's goal at 14:08 and scored himself seven seconds later. At 15:11, Dave Babych gave the Whalers a 3-0 lead.
Although he joined the Whalers as a 17-year-old wonder from Windsor, Canada in 1982, Lawless is just blossoming into the player they thought he could be.
He played, mostly poorly, in 47 games for the Whalers in the 1982-83 season, was sent back to junior hockey the next season and spent the 1984-85 season in the minors.
While at Salt Lake City in 1985, Lawless was fortunate to have Tom Webster, now the New York Rangers' coach, as a teacher. Webster improved both Lawless' ability and mental outlook.
The Whalers gave him a "last chance" a year ago and he developed into a dependable player. They thought they had a budding star when he scored nine goals in the first 20 games this season. Then came the slump. But, with the team winning, the Whalers could afford to be patient.
"I knew they couldn't send me back to the juniors," said Lawless, now 22. "But they could send me to the minors. I was pressing. Fortunately, the guys with me were doing well.
"It's a relief to get out of the slump and get us into first place the same night."
Gavin had three assists in addition to his goal, while the other member of the trio, Dean Evason had a goal and two assists.
Calgary 4, Chicago 1--The Flames are only the second-best team in the Smythe Division (behind Edmonton), but they have the third-best record in the NHL.
John Tonelli broke a 1-1 tie with a power-play goal at 8:52 of the third period, then scored again four minutes later to assure the Flames of a 23-16-1 record.
With 47 points, the Flames trail the Oilers by five points. Philadelphia leads everyone in points with 54. The Flames' total would lead the Norris and Adams divisions.
Buffalo 7, Quebec 2--Jacques Cloutier was sensational in goal at Buffalo and Adam Creighton had a goal and three assists.
It was the second win in the last three games for the Sabres, who have the worst record in the league (10-24-5).
Cloutier stopped 40 shots, 21 in the hectic second period in which the Nordiques managed to get one shot past the goalie.
Each team had 12 shots in the first period. Cloutier stopped all 12, including two breakaways, but the Sabres scored four times against Clint Malarchuk.
Winnipeg 4, Vancouver 2--The Jets scored twice in the first period at Winnipeg, but needed Doug Smail's goal early in the third period to clinch the victory.
Pokey Reddick turned in his second sharp game in a row in the nets for the Jets. Reddick stopped 29 shots.
Goals by Tomas Steen and Laurie Boschman in the first period gave Reddick a working margin and he responded.