Wayne Gretzky is ready for Rendez-vous ’87.
Gretzky, in his final tuneup for the two-game series with the Soviet Union, scored two goals and set up two others Sunday night at Edmonton to lead the Oilers to a 6-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
The Soviets and NHL All-Stars play Wednesday and Friday night at Quebec in a format that is different from the usual midseason All-Star game.
The Oilers (37-15-5), with 23 games remaining, have the best record in the NHL and he has all but clinched his eighth consecutive scoring title. He leads by a big margin in goals (52), assists (90) and points (142). Gretzky is on a pace that would give him a fourth consecutive season with 200 or more points.
In the opinion of hockey fans, these figures were not good enough to make the Oiler star the starting center. They voted Mario Lemieux of Pittsburgh that honor.
The Oilers, at least at the start, seemed more intent with punishing Jocelyn Lemieux (no relation to Mario) of the Blues. A month ago Lemieux roughed up and beat up Gretzky. The Oilers made several runs at Lemieux and helped the Blues jump in front, 1-0.
But Gretzky, who played brilliantly throughout, was not to be denied. Less than a minute after Doug Gilmour scored for the Blues, Gretzky, surrounded by three Blues, somehow managed to get his stick on a shot by linemate Esaa Tikkanen, and deflected the puck into the net.
His perfect passes made it easy for Jari Kurri and Kevin Lowe to score in the second period. One minute into the final period, he settled the Blues’ fate when he went in on a breakaway to make it 4-2.
In two previous games with the Blues, Gretzky had only one assist.
“They always play me tough,” Gretzky said. “Usually they make sure (Rob) Ramage is against me. But sometimes you’re a little luckier than others.
“On the breakaway I thought he (Goalie Greg Millen) had me. I don’t usually do well on a breakaway. I was going to shoot, then faked and this time it worked.”
Pittsburgh 2, New Jersey 1--There were some rough moments before Chris Kontos scored his second goal of the night at 2:12 of overtime at East Rutherford, N.J., to get the Penguins out of the Patrick Division cellar.
The scariest came before the game was five minutes old. Devils’ defenseman Craig Wolanin checked Penguin star Mario Lemieux into the boards. Lemieux, who missed 13 games because of an injured right knee earlier, limped off, but returned later. The injury was only a bruise, but it is not known if Lemieux will face the Soviets.
Goaltender Gilles Meloche, playing in his 750th NHL game, stopped 28 shots. A power-play goal by Mark Johnson late in the second period thwarted his bid for a shutout.
The victory gave the Penguins 50 points, one more than the Devils.
Quebec 2, Boston 1--Defenseman Randy Moller knocked in his own rebound with just 87 seconds left in regulation at Boston, but Bruin Coach Terry O’Reilly was more inclined to give the credit to Nordique goalie Clint Malarchuk.
“The Nordiques had an unusual game plan,” O’Reilly said. “They had their goaltender stand on his head and stop everything. Malarchuk was the difference.”
Malarchuk had 35 saves, 18 of them in the third period to hand the Bruins only their third loss in 12 games.
The Nordiques are the best penalty killers in the league. They showed the Bruin fans by killing off six power-play opportunities.
Buffalo 7, Chicago 4--Hot-shooting Adam Creighton scored the first two goals at Buffalo and the Sabres built a 5-1 lead on the way to their fourth win in the last five games.
Creighton, who scored only once in the first 11 games he played this season, has 11 goals and 11 assists in the last 20.
The Sabres fired a season-high 47 shots at netminder Murray Bannerman.
Tom Barrasso kept the Blackhawks well under control with just two goals in the first 55 minutes, then gave up two more in a hurry to make it look a little closer.
The Sabres remained 11 points behind Quebec in their bid to gain a playoff spot in the Adams Division.
Toronto 5, New York Rangers 4--Rick Vaive scored with 94 seconds left in regulation time at New York and the Maple Leafs ended the Rangers’ four-game winning streak.
The Maple Leafs had blown a 4-2 lead earlier in the final period when Kelly Kisio and Pierre Larouche scored. It was Larouche’s second goal of the game and 22nd of the season.
The Maple Leafs have won three out of four after losing six in a row.
Calgary 3, Vancouver 2--Defenseman Neil Sheehy, captain Jim Peplinski and rookie Brian Bradley scored first-period goals that led the Flames over the Canucks.
Calgary goalie Rejean Lemelin played a strong game, making 26 saves. Several of Lemelin’s best saves came during a hectic third period.
The Flames had lost their last three games against Vancouver and Calgary goalie Mike Vernon had played in all previous six matchups of the Smythe Division rivals. Vancouver still holds a 4-3 edge in the series.