Ron Francis scored twice in the second period Friday night at Hartford, Conn., to lead the Whalers to a 3-2 victory over the Quebec Nordiques and into first place in the Adams Division.
It was the third win in a row for the Whalers, who lead Montreal by a point. In each of the three victories, Francis, who was off to a slow start this season, has scored the key goal. He has seven goals in the last eight games.
Goaltender Mike Liut turned in another superlative performance for Hartford. He gave up a goal to John Ogrodnick in the second period, when Liut's view was blocked on a 40-foot shot.
This is the first time that the Whalers, who have played four fewer games than the Canadiens, have been on top this late in a season.
Philadelphia 4, Chicago 3--Lindsay Carson knocked in a rebound with 2:14 left at Philadelphia to give the Flyers a hard-earned victory over the Blackhawks. Earlier in the week at Chicago, the teams played to a 5-5 tie.
The Flyers pulled ahead, 3-2, early in the final period on Tim Kerr's 38th goal, but the Blackhawks' Ed Olczyk deflected a shot by Bob Murray into the net to tie it at 13:20.
Detroit 4, St. Louis 3--David Barr scored twice, and Steve Yzerman had a goal and two assists at Detroit to lead the Red Wings to their fourth victory in a row.
Barr has four goals and five assists in six games with the Red Wings since he was acquired in a trade with Hartford.
The Blues, playing without six injured players, are 0-5-2 in their last seven games.
Washington 3, Buffalo 2--Dave Christian broke a 2-2 tie with 3:48 left in regulation at Buffalo to lift the Capitals to their fifth victory in a row.
The streak has brought the Capitals from last place in the Patrick Division to within three points of the second-place New York Islanders.
The Capitals are 6-1-1 in their last eight games.
Winnipeg 7, Toronto 5--Gilles Hamel fired the puck over goaltender Ken Wregget's shoulder at 7:20 of the third period at Winnipeg for the decisive Jet goal. He also scored into an empty net in the closing seconds.
It was a bitterly fought game. The Jets' Mario Marois was ejected for head-butting Toronto's Wendel Clark during a fight late in the second period.
Edmonton 7, New York Rangers 4--Wayne Gretzky had two goals and two assists at Edmonton and climbed into third place in career assists with 927.
Gretzky, who has 47 goals this season, trails only Gordie Howe and Marcel Dionne in assists. Dionne has 971, and Howe had 1,049 in 26 seasons. Gretzky, who is in his eighth season, passed Stan Mikita, who had 926 assists in 22 seasons with Chicago.
If Gretzky scores three goals in the Oilers' next two games, he will have at least 50 goals in the first 50 games of a season for the fourth time.
Pittsburgh 6, Vancouver 0--Mario Lemieux scored three goals in his second game back after a knee injury, leading the Penguins to victory at Vancouver.
Lemieux, who missed 13 games, has 31 goals in 34 games.
The Penguins moved into a fourth-place tie with the New York Rangers in the Patrick Division.
They got shutout goaltending from Gilles Meloche and Roberto Romano, who combined to surrender 10 goals to the Kings Wednesday night. Meloche was given a game misconduct at 10:11 of the opening period for being the third man involved in a fight between Pittsburgh's Jimmy Johnson and Vancouver's Dwight Bruce, and was replaced by Romano.