"Uncle Sam's plumbers" struck again Saturday night at Montreal, and the Canadiens regained first place in the tight Adams Division race.
Chris Chelios and Chris Nilan, two of the plumbers, scored three goals in a 4-3 victory over the Hartford Whalers to give the Canadiens 78 points, two more than Buffalo.
The plumbers are six Americans who have helped make the Canadiens one of the best defensive teams in the league and solid contenders once again for the Stanley Cup.
The Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup 21 times, but never before with a team dominated by Yanks. In other years there was a French Connection, but hardly ever even one American.
Chelios, who starred on defense for the U.S. Olympic team last year, is only a rookie, but he is the leader of the plumbers. The others, in addition to Nilan, a five-year veteran, are defensemen Tom Kurvers, Craig Ludwig and Kent Carlson, and center Alfie Turcotte.
"The Americans on this team are good plumbers," Ludwig said. "That's what we call ourselves. Our game is to hit people. We hit, bump, play the boards and the corners."
Nilan's goal tied the game in the first period, but the Whalers held a 2-1 lead going into the final period. Chelios, more noted for his solid defensive play, tied the game at 3:12. His pass, meant for Nilan, hit a Hartford player and went into the net. Five minutes later he faked out defenseman Joel Quenneville, went around him and slid a shot between goaltender Mike Liut's legs for his eighth goal of the season.
Pierre Mondou followed Chelios' second goal of the game with his 17th of the season to put the game on ice.
Edmonton 3, N.Y. Rangers 3--The Rangers, embarrassed at Calgary Thursday night, managed a point in this game at Edmonton when Barry Beck blasted in a long shot with 1:59 left in regulation. They lost to the Flames, 11-5.
Glen Hanlon was superb in goal for the Rangers, stopping 41 shots.
The Oilers have yet to win in overtime this year. They are 0-1-8.
Calgary 2, Quebec 2--Brent Ashton scored from a goalmouth scramble with 13 seconds left in regulation at Calgary to lift the Nordiques into a tie. The tie enabled the Flames to take over second place in the Smythe Division.
The Flames lead Winnipeg by one point and the fourth-place Kings by five.
Pittsburgh 6, Boston 5--Wayne Babych scored his second goal of the game at Boston at 1:06 of overtime to keep the Penguins unbeaten in overtime games (3-0-5).
The Penguins overcame a 4-2 deficit to take a 5-4 lead at 12:57 on a goal by Dave Hannan. But with less than 3 1/2 minutes left in regulation, Rick Middleton tied the game.
N.Y. Islanders 4, Toronto 2--Defenseman Ken Morrow, playing in only his fourth game of the season, assisted on three goals at Uniondale, N.Y. to lead the Islanders to only their second win in the last seven games.
Morrow missed the first 63 games because of knee surgery. Two of his assists came on the first NHL goals by rookies Roger Kortko and Dale Henry.
The Islanders received another sharp performance in goal from Billy Smith, who seems to sense the approach of the playoffs. Smith stopped 39 shots.
New Jersey 8, Detroit 5--Doug Sulliman scored his 20th goal of the season midway through the third period at Detroit to break a tie and climax a Devils' rally that overcame a three-goal deficit.
Minnesota 4, St. Louis 1--Dino Ciccarelli scored twice at Bloomington, Minn., to lead the North Stars to the victory that put them into a tie with Detroit for third place in the Norris Division.