The return to form of Mario Lemieux may mean more to Pittsburgh Coach Bob Berry than any vote of confidence from management.
Lemieux, in just his fourth game since recovering from a serious knee sprain, scored the tiebreaking goal Tuesday night at Pittsburgh to lead the Penguins to a 7-5 victory over the Washington Capitals.
The Penguins are 2-2 since their big, talented center returned to action, and they moved into a tie for fourth place with the New York Rangers in the Patrick Division.
While Lemieux was out, the Penguins, who were in third place when he was hurt, won only 2 of 12 games and dropped into last place.
When asked if Berry's position was secure through the season, Penguin Vice President Paul Martha responded: " I can't say that."
Berry was the toast of Pittsburgh when the Penguins opened the season with a club-record seven consecutive victories. But they went into a slump shortly before Lemieux was hurt, and it reached epidemic proportions in his absence.
Lemieux scored his 32nd goal in 36 games late in the second period to break a 3-3 tie. Near the middle of the third period, Jim McGeough scored his first goal of the season, and a minute later, defenseman Jim Johnson put the game out of reach, 6-3.
Lemieux and Coach Bryan Murray of the Capitals engaged in a verbal battle when Murray wondered out loud why nobody in the league is allowed to touch the Penguin star.
"All he (Lemieux) did was tell me to look at the scoreboard," Murray said. "He was right."
While management did not give Berry a vote of confidence, the team captain, Terry Ruskowski, did. "I think he has done a very good job," Ruskowski said. "It's not fair for him to take all the blame for what happened."
Quebec 4, Hartford 2--Anton Stastny took it upon himself to put an end to the Nordiques' three-game losing streak at Quebec.
Stastny scored two goals and assisted on the other two goals. His 14th goal of the season broke a 2-2 tie with 3:37 left, and he completed the scoring with an empty-net goal with 32 seconds to play.
The Nordiques ended the Whalers' four-game winning streak and thwarted their bid to regain first place in the Adams Division.
St. Louis 2, Montreal 1--Rookie Todd Ewen scored his first NHL goal, and goaltender Greg Millen held off a late Montreal surge at St. Louis.
The Canadiens not only pulled goalie Brian Hayward late in the game, they slipped an extra player on the ice, giving them seven and drew a penalty.
New York Islanders 2, Winnipeg 2--Pat LaFontaine scored with 3:42 left in regulation at Uniondale, N.Y., to get a hard-earned tie.
Although they failed to win, the Jets extended their unbeaten streak on the road to six games (5-0-1).
It was the fifth game in a row the Islanders have played without Mike Bossy, who has a back injury.
Vancouver 4, Edmonton 4--Doug Lidster scored with 29 seconds remaining in the third period to lift the Canucks to a tie with the Oilers at Vancouver.
The Canucks pulled their goalie, Richard Brodeur, for an extra skater late in the third, and the strategy paid off for the first time this season. Stan Smyl's centering pass went through the slot to Lidster at the point, and the defenseman blasted the tying goal past Andy Moog to send the game into overtime.
The Oilers left the ice after an apparent winning goal in the overtime period. Glenn Anderson deflected a shot from the point that linesman Brad Lazarowich ruled hit the upper part of the net and came back out. Referee Ron Hoggarth, though, consulted with the game officials and negated the score.
Vancouver has not beaten Edmonton in the teams' last 17 meetings, dating back to March 10, 1985.