When the Calgary Flames made it to the Stanley Cup final round in 1986, they were a big, young team that figured to get better.
But last season the Flames seemed to just mark time and were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.
In the off-season, the Flames added some talented rookies and now they may be as good a team as there is in the National Hockey League.
One of those newcomers, Joe Nieuwendyk, was a standout Monday night at Calgary when the Flames beat the Montreal Canadiens, 9-3.
The 21-year-old center had a hat trick and an assist and made the game, against the team that Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky called the best in the NHL, a one-sided affair.
Nieuwendyk, who has just about clinched rookie of the year honors, had his three goals before the second period ended. He scored on a power play in the first period. Then, with his team short-handed, scored two minutes into the second period. With a minute left in the period, he scored his 26th goal of the season to make the Flames' lead 6-1.
"Joe, Brett Hull and defenseman Brian Glynn have fit right into our club," Coach Terry Crisp said. "They have played well all season. In fact, the entire club is playing well."
The Flames maintained their one-point lead over Edmonton in the Smythe Division. They have 48 points. Montreal has 51.
Edmonton 7, Vancouver 3--Mark Messier scored two goals and assisted on two others at Edmonton to lead the Oilers to an easy victory.
Edmonton held only a 4-3 margin after two periods, but Craig Simpson scored before the third period was a minute old and, with a two-goal lead, the Oilers took command.
The Canucks outshot the Oilers, 38-28.
New Jersey 6, New York Islanders 4--As long as the Devils keep playing the way they do in East Rutherford, N.J., they are going to be tough to beat out of a playoff spot.
Kirk Muller knocked in a rebound with 7:49 left in regulation to break a 4-4 tie, and the Devils moved into a tie with the Islanders for second place in the Patrick Division. The Devils are 18-15-4 with a home record of 13-4-1.
In handing the Islanders their fifth loss in a row on the road, the Devils earned their 40th point. Last season, they had only 64.
Washington 4, Toronto 4--Veteran defenseman Rod Langway, just recently off the disabled list, scored at 5:31 of the third period at Toronto to get the Capitals a tie.