The Pittsburgh Penguins are so confident they will make the playoffs that they have offered season ticket-holders a rebate if they don't.
Although all but five teams in the 21-team National Hockey League qualify for postseason play, it may be a costly decision by the organization.
For one thing, they play in the Patrick Division, which is probably the toughest in the league. Moreover, it is the division in which two teams are eliminated. On top of that, they are off to a poor start.
Doug Brown's power-play goal midway through the final period Wednesday night at Pittsburgh gave the New Jersey Devils a 5-4 victory in a bitterly fought battle that continued the Penguins' slow start. Even the spectators almost engaged the Devils in battle.
The Penguins have only one victory in seven games, have lost three in a row and already are in the cellar, four points behind the Devils, who are in fourth place.
Although they failed to make the playoffs for five seasons in a row, the Penguins, with a new coach, Pierre Creamer, and a club built around Mario Lemieux, believed that this would be a banner season.
So, when they raised ticket prices $2 a game, they promised to refund the increase if the Penguins again failed to make the playoffs.
Lemieux, after an outstanding performance in the Canada Cup series, is off to a fine start but hasn't been able to take the team with him. Wednesday night, he scored his fifth goal of the season and assisted on the second of rookie Ron Brown's first two NHL goals.
During the third period, before the winning goal, the Devils were involved in an argument with referee Bob Hall after a penalty was assessed on John MacLean. Pittsburgh fans started throwing trash into the penalty box. The irate MacLean had to be restrained from climbing into the stands along with a couple of teammates. No blows were struck, but a piece of Plexiglas on the side of the penalty box was pulled down.
"We made the offer to our season ticket-holders because we felt sure we would at least finish fourth," General Manager Eddie Johnston said. "We are not really worried about the poor start. We still think we are an improved team."
Montreal 10, Toronto 3--The Canadiens expect their star goalie, Patrick Roy, to draw a suspension for an earlier stick-swinging incident, so they gave him a big sendoff in this game at Toronto.
Mike McPhee scored twice in a seven-goal second period that broke open the game.
Roy delivered a slashing blow with his stick to the leg of Warren Babe of the Minnesota North Stars Monday night. Babe limped off the ice, obviously injured.
It is expected that Roy will draw a severe penalty.
Calgary 5, New York Rangers 4--Jim Peplinski and Hakan Loob scored in the first minute of the third period at New York to bring the Flames from behind and enable them to end a three-game losing streak.
Brilliant goaltending by Mike Vernon, especially in the last four minutes when the Flames were short-handed, preserved the lead.
Chicago 5, Detroit 1--Denis Savard scored twice, and Duane Sutter had a goal and an assist at Detroit to lead the Blackhawks to their fifth victory in a row.
The Blackhawks, who lead the Norris Division by four points, dominated the game so thoroughly that goaltender Bob Mason faced only 16 shots.
Hartford 5, Buffalo 3--Dave Tippett broke a 3-3 tie with his first goal of the season at 11:15 of the third period at Buffalo, then scored again two minutes later to give the Whalers their second victory in seven games.
Boston 5, Vancouver 4--Right wings Cam Neely and Keith Crowder scored goals 59 seconds apart in the second period at Vancouver, Canada, to break a 3-3 tie and give the Bruins a victory that boosted their record to 5-2. Boston remained one point ahead of second-place Montreal in the Adams Division.