The New York Rangers are not only playing poorly, their luck just isn't very good.
Coach Michel Bergeron took his bruised and battered team into Edmonton, Canada, Wednesday night to face the angry Stanley Cup champions.
After losing three in a row on their recent trip, the Oilers were battered and bruised, too . . . but only their egos.
With Wayne Gretzky taking charge from the outset--he scored a hat trick and become only the second player in National Hockey League history to get 1,000 assists--the Oilers crushed the undermanned Rangers, 7-2.
Before the game, Bergeron, whose team has lost five in a row, was ranting about getting some tough players. Indeed, earlier in the day, he sent veteran defensemen Willie Huber and Larry Melnyk to Vancouver for young defenseman Michel Petit. Pettit hasn't scored a goal, but so what, he's tough.
It was talent, not toughness, that the Rangers needed against the Oilers. Flashing their championship form, the Oilers took charge early and breezed.
Going into the game, both Gretzky and the Rangers' Marcel Dionne had 998 assists. Gretzky set up a first-period score by Mark Messier, then put Esa Tikkanen in position for the Oilers' seventh goal, in the third period.
With 23 assists in 13 games this season, it probably won't be long before Gretzky overtakes Gordie Howe, the all-time leader who had 1,049 assists.
It will be the first of many all-time records for Gretzky, who already holds virtually every other offensive mark.
Dionne assisted on the final Ranger goal and needs just one more to reach 1,000.
In 13 games this season, Gretzky has 10 goals and 33 points.
Already battered, the Rangers lost top scorer Walt Poddubny, goalie Bob Froese and forward Kelly Kisio because of injuries at Calgary Tuesday night.
Toronto 7, Winnipeg 3--In their sixth game of the season, the Maple Leafs were humiliated and booed off the ice at Maple Leaf Gardens after giving up 10 goals to archrival Montreal.
In their next game, also at home, the fans laughed at their futile play in a 7-4 loss to Minnesota.
Nobody's laughing now, and the Maple Leafs have soared to the top of the Norris Division.
Ed Olczyk scored a goal and set up four others for linemates Russ Courtnall and Wendel Clark at Toronto in the rout of Winnipeg. It was the fourth win in a row for the Maple Leafs and the third without a loss for goaltender Allan Bester.
Clark, shaking off the effects of a shoulder injury, and Courtnall each scored twice as the line fairly flew past the Jets.
"Give Wendel another week to get in shape and we'll really have a line," Courtnall said. "We have already come a long way since those two humiliating defeats. We knew we were a good team. We just had to prove it.
Minnesota 7, Detroit 4--Dino Ciccarelli assisted on two goals and scored another in a five-goal third-period rally at Minneapolis as the North Stars reached the .500 mark (5-5-3).
Until the last period, the goaltending of Glen Hanlon had kept the Red Wings in front. He stopped 14 shots in the first period.
Boston 2, Hartford 2--Brent Peterson scored his first goal of the season halfway through the final period at Hartford, Conn., to enable the Whalers to extend their unbeaten string to seven games (5-0-2). The Whalers lost their first five games this season before embarking on the streak.
Until Peterson stole the puck and beat two defenders, it appeared that the Bruins would end their winless streak. But they settled for a tie and are 0-3-2 in their last five games.
Montreal 4, Chicago 4--The Blackhawks were fortunate to escape with a tie at Chicago. With just 1:45 left in regulation, the Canadiens were on a power play and leading, 4-3.
But they were careless clearing the puck, and Blackhawk star Denis Savard grabbed it. He slipped it to defenseman Doug Wilson, who blasted a shot into the net to tie the game.