The Edmonton Oilers may not be able to beat the Calgary Flames, but they don't have any trouble winning the Smythe Division.
With Craig MacTavish scoring a short-handed goal in a four-goal second period, the Oilers beat the Whalers, 5-3, at Hartford Wednesday night to move close to a sixth consecutive division title.
The Oilers moved nine points ahead of Calgary when Winnipeg trounced the Flames, who beat the Oilers six times this season. Edmonton is three points away from clinching the division.
The goal by MacTavish was the 25th by the Oilers this season when trying to kill a penalty. It broke a 2-2 tie at 6:57. With time running out in the middle period, defenseman Paul Coffey scored on a power play to give the Oilers a two-goal advantage.
Wayne Gretzky, who long ago clinched his eighth consecutive scoring championship, had two assists and has 180 points. He needs 20 points in six games to reach the 200-point mark for the fourth consecutive season. No other player has had more than 152 points in a season.
Gretzky may get the chance to reach 200, because the Oilers are striving to finish with the best overall record. They have 99 points to 96 for Philadelphia.
"It is more important that we get ready for the playoffs," Gretzky said. "We have been doing extra work on our special teams and it paid off tonight.
"We try aggressively to kill penalties, chase the puck and get it. We don't stay in a defensive shell just because we're a man short."
The loss ended the Whalers' three-game winning streak. They still lead the Adams Division by five points over Montreal.
Winnipeg 10, Calgary 1--The Flames suffered a letdown after consecutive victories over the Oilers and were wiped out in a hurry at Winnipeg.
Doug Smail registered his second career hat trick, and the Jets exploded for four goals in a four-minute spurt in the first period.
The Jets haven't given up hope of overtaking the Flames and finishing second in the Smythe Division. They trail Calgary by four points with five games remaining.
The victory set a Winnipeg record for largest margin. With a 9-1 lead Jets fans were yelling for 10 and Smail, with nearly five minutes remaining, gave it to them with his third goal.
New Jersey 8, New York Rangers 2--The Devils' playoff hopes are barely alive, but they manhandled the Rangers at New York.
Pat Verbeek had a hat trick and combined with linemates Kirk Muller and Aaron Broten for 13 points and enabled the Devils to stave off elimination.
The Devils must win their last six games and hope the Rangers lose their last five in order to qualify for postseason play.
Former King Marcel Dionne scored a goal for the Rangers and set up the other.
Minnesota 6, Toronto 2--The North Stars dealt a severe blow to the Maple Leafs' playoff chances.
Mark Pavelich and Bob Brooke each scored two goals at Toronto and the North Stars pulled into a tie for third place with the Blackhawks. The Stars are five points ahead of the Leafs with just five games remaining.
It was the seventh game for Pavelich since signing as a free agent March 9. He had one previous goal.
Chicago 4, St. Louis 4--It was a chance for one of them to move closer to Detroit, the Norris Division leader, but the Blackhawks and the Blues couldn't come to a decision at Chicago.
Darryl Sutter of the Blackhawks deflected in a 60-foot shot by Gary Nylund on a power-play with five minutes left in regulation to tie it.
If the Blues, who built a 4-1 lead with four goals in the second period, had held on for the victory they would have moved to within four points of first place.
The tie left the Blues two points ahead of the Blackhawks in the battle for third place.