Throughout his fabulous career, Wayne Gretzky has played better in the second half of a season than the first.
The incomparable center of the Edmonton Oilers launched his second-half drive Tuesday night at Detroit, leading the Oilers to a 5-3 victory over the Red Wings.
In the second period, Gretzky scored his league-leading 41st goal, and in the third period, he set up Randy Gregg and Jari Kurri for the decisive goals.
In the first two games of the second half, the great one had only a pair of assists, but he skated in high gear against the improved Red Wings.
After 43 games, Gretzky has 103 points. He is shooting for his own record of 215 that he set last season. No other player has accumulated 200 points in a season. Gretzky has done it four of the last five seasons; in the one he missed, he had 196.
There was only 3:41 left in the third period when Gretzky drew two defenders and goalie Glen Hanlon to him and fired the puck across the ice to defenseman Gregg, who fired it into the open half of the net.
With time running out, Gretzky, instead of shooting into the empty net, passed to Kurri, who scored his 23rd goal.
It was the third win in a row for the Oilers and the third loss in a row for the Red Wings. The Red Wings have beaten the Oilers only once in the last 19 games.
Pittsburgh 3, New York Islanders 3--The undermanned Penguins deserved a better fate at Uniondale, N.Y. Almost from the start, they outplayed the home team.
But the best one-two punch in hockey, Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy, thwarted the Penguins, teaming up to get the tying goal with 8:03 left in regulation.
It was the second goal for Bossy, who has 29 goals this season. Trottier gave Bossy a pass at the goalmouth and, while being knocked off his skates, Bossy fired a shot that deflected off goaltender Gilles Meloche. Then, from his knees, Bossy took another swipe at the puck and tied the game.
Only spectacular play in the nets by Billy Smith kept the Penguins from winning big. Smith stopped 39 shots, four of them in the five-minute overtime.
Winnipeg 3, Washington 2--Dale Hawerchuk and Paul MacLean scored goals fewer than two minutes apart early in the third period at Landover, Md., to lead the Jets to victory.
It was the fifth win in the last six games for the Jets and put them just three points behind Calgary in the battle for second place in the Smythe Division.
The Capitals took a 2-1 lead at 15:19 of the second period when Kelly Miller scored his second goal since joining the team Jan. 1. This one came on only the Capitals' second shot of the period.