It is a good bet that if you shut down Wayne Gretzky, you can beat the Edmonton Oilers.
The Washington Capitals put this theory to the test Tuesday night at Landover, Md., and skated to a 4-2 victory over the Stanley Cup champions.
It was the second time in 25 games this season that Gretzky failed to get a point. In the other one in October, Quebec shut out the Oilers.
Bengt Gustafsson, who missed the previous game because he had been slashed in the face last Friday, led the Capitals to victory, scoring two goals and assisting on another.
Usually by the time the National Hockey League season enters its second quarter, two things have been established: Gretzky has sewed up another scoring title and the Oilers have put an end to the race in the Smythe Division.
Although Gretzky has a 10-point lead in the scoring race, it isn't over by any means. And, the Oilers aren't even leading the division. They are 3-3 in their last six games and trail the Calgary Flames by a point.
Jari Kurri and newcomer Craig Simpson scored the Oiler goals. Kurri's 13th gave them a lead in the first period, but Washington scored four unanswered goals in the second period, two of them on power plays.
Vancouver 3, Quebec 1--The Canucks, who put the Nordiques into their slump back on Nov. 13, kept them in it with this victory at Quebec.
Going into the Nov. 13 game, the Nordiques were 9-5-1. With this defeat, they are 10-12-1, having lost seven out of eight.
Stan Smyl scored a goal and assisted on another and Kirk McLean was superlative in the nets, stopping 32 shots.
McLean, who was the winner in the previous meeting, stopped breakaways by Jeff Jackson, Michel Goulet and Anton Stastny in the last period.
Minnesota 3, Toronto 2--Brian Bellows tied the game with 19 seconds left in regulation at Bloomington, Minn., then won it for the North Stars at 1:20 of overtime.
Seconds before he tied the game, Bellows, who leads the North Stars with 18 goals, missed an open net.
Until Bellows' late flurry, Toronto goalie Ken Wregget had stopped 30 of 31 shots. The North Stars have beaten the Maple Leafs 16 of the last 19 games.