One of the best races in sports is the battle in the Adams Division of the National Hockey League.
Power-play goals by Mats Naslund and Bobby Smith in the second period Saturday night at Montreal enabled the Canadiens to come from behind and beat the Buffalo Sabres, 3-1, and pull into a three-way tie for first place in the competitive division.
The defeat dropped the Sabres into last place in the hotly-contested race, but only six points out of first place.
The Canadiens, Quebec and Boston all have 38 points; Hartford has 33, and the Sabres, the only team below .500 (15-16-2), have 32.
The Sabres wasted a tremendous performance by goalie Tom Barrasso, who stopped 30 shots, 14 of them in the second period, when the Canadiens scored all their goals.
Montreal rookie Patrick Roy faced only 23 shots. He stopped the Sabres after Lindy Ruff scored late in the first period.
The Sabres were holding onto the lead in the second period when they were hit with penalties just 13 seconds apart. For more than a minute, Barrasso, with his side two skaters short, held the best power play in the NHL at bay. But finally, Naslund lifted a shot over the goalie's shoulder to tie the game.
Near the end of the period, the Sabres were one man short when Naslund set up Smith for what proved to be the winning goal.
Just 97 seconds after taking the lead, the Canadiens scored again. Brian Skrudland made it a 3-1 game, and the Sabres could never get back into the game.
The Canadiens have played one more game than the Bruins and Nordiques.
Hartford 7, New Jersey 6--Paul Lawless and Stewart Gavin scored 17 seconds apart in the second period at Hartford to trigger a four-goal rally.
In the first minute of the final period, the Whalers scored again to take a 7-3 lead. Then, in a wild finish, the Devils scored three times and had the Whalers on the ropes.
When Mel Bridgman scored to cut the lead to a single goal, there were still 4 1/2 minutes remaining. The Devils, who scored three goals on their first five shots of the game, couldn't put the tying shot past Mike Liut.
Bobby Crawford had two goals for the Whalers, who moved out of the cellar in the Adams Division ahead of Buffalo.
Boston 5, Minnesota 2--The Bruins brought up Jay Miller from the minors a month ago because he was tough, and they needed an enforcer. It is a bonus that the young left wing is also a hockey player.
Miller scored two goals in this game at Boston to help the Bruins extend their unbeaten string to four games.
Injured Charlie Simmer, a prolific scorer, has been teaching Miller how to put the puck into the net, and Miller is responding.
"It's finally coming around," Miller said. "Every day, Charlie and I shoot the puck around together, and he helps me a lot with the little things. He keeps telling me to go to the net and make something happen. I finally did it."
It was the 25th victory of the season for the Flyers, the earliest in the season they have ever won that many games.
Kerr has 31 goals. His sharpshooting made it easy for goalie Bob Froese, who stopped 36 shots.
The Rangers took the lead in the first period and held the lead the rest of the way. Goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck preserved the win, stopping four shots from close range in the final moments, when the Islanders had six attackers on the ice.
Chicago 6, Detroit 3--Ed Olczyk and Al Secord each scored twice at Detroit, and the Black Hawks handed the Red Wings their seventh loss in a row.
The Black Hawks, in winning their third straight, scored five goals on their first 10 shots.