Wayne Gretzky is definitely out of his slump. The incomparable center of the Edmonton Oilers had only a single assist in back-to-back defeats last week and that constitutes a slump for the scoring machine.
He showed signs of emerging Saturday night with two goals to snap the mild skid of the Stanley Cup champions. It was merely a warmup.
Gretzky went on a rampage Sunday night at Edmonton to lead the Oilers to a 10-4 romp over the Minnesota North Stars.
After setting up linemate Esa Tikkanen for a goal 42 seconds after the opening faceoff, Gretzky had a hat trick in the first period and went on to score five goals.
It was the fourth time Gretzky scored five goals in a game and it came in 13 shots on goal. The six points put him just one point behind Phil Esposito on the all-time scoring list with 1,589 points.
Gretzky, only 26, has 25 goals in 28 games and has taken over the goal-scoring lead as well as the point lead. He has 69 points and is running away with another scoring title.
About the time he reaches his 27th birthday, Gretzky figures to catch Gordie Howe, the all-time leader in assists. He needs 29 to tie Howe. Howe accumulated 1,049 in 26 seasons. Gretzky is in his ninth.
"I'm more interested in winning games than in reaching milestones," Gretzky said. "I felt I had to do something to shake us out of our slump. Maybe, we're on our way."
New Jersey 1, Philadelphia 1--A tie on the road looks awfully good to the Devils. The team with the best record on home ice, they can't win for losing on the road.
They appeared headed for another loss in this game at Philadelphia until Kirk Muller beat Ron Hextall from five feet in front of the net with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.
The tie gave the Devils, who are 11-1-1 at home, a 3-8-3 record away from home. It also ended the Flyers' three-game losing streak, but it moved them out of the Patrick Division cellar.
Vancouver 5, Buffalo 1--Tony Tanti scored twice in the second period at Buffalo and the Canucks went on to hand the slumping Sabres their sixth loss in the last seven games.
The victory gave the Canucks a 2-1-1 on their eastern swing and enabled them to move five points ahead of the Kings in the battle for the final playoff spot in the Smythe Division.