NHL Roundup : Red Wings, Flying High With Demers, Beat Minnesota, 4-3

Coach Jacques Demers credits the startling improvement of the Detroit Red Wings this season to the team's work ethic. Most people give the credit to Demers.

The Red Wings won only 17 of 80 games last season, the worst record in the NHL. Demers, who built the St. Louis Blues into a winner, took over virtually the same Detroit team and transformed it into a winner.

The Red Wings, who have reached the playoffs only four times in the last 21 years, are shooting for a division title.

Detroit has 71 points, more than they have earned in any of the last seven seasons, and lead the Norris Division by three points. By picking up nine points in the remaining 10 games, the Red Wings would be assured of making the playoffs.

Dave Barr scored the decisive goal halfway through the third period Saturday at Bloomington, Minn., as the Red Wings overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat Minnesota, 4-3.

"The hard work did it," Demers said. "There's no secret to it: Our team prides itself on not being outworked."

The North Stars jumped in front, 3-0, on seven shots in the first period but had only 11 more shots in the last 40 minutes.

Edmonton 5, Buffalo 3--Wayne Gretzky is making a late run at his fourth consecutive 200-point season and is carrying the Oilers to another Smythe Division title.

Gretzky had two goals and an assist at Edmonton to help the Oilers increase their lead over Calgary to seven points. Gretzky has 59 goals and needs 33 points in the last 12 games to reach 200.

Boston 4, Chicago 4--The Bruins built a 4-1 lead in two periods at Boston, but the Blackhawks, battling to make the playoffs in the Norris Division race, fought back to tie.

Defenseman Keith Brown's fourth goal of the season brought the Blackhawks even with 6:33 left in regulation and enabled them to move a point ahead of Minnesota in third place.

New York Islanders 7, New Jersey 6--Pat LaFontaine scored 61 seconds into overtime at Uniondale, N.Y. to climax a fine comeback.

The Devils, virtually eliminated from the playoffs, built a 6-2 lead. But, in the last 13:40, the Islanders scored five goals. Mikko Makela sent it into overtime on a goal with 11 seconds left in regulation.

New York Rangers 3, Pittsburgh 2--Tomas Sandstrom scored 65 seconds into overtime at Pittsburgh to deal the Penguins' playoff hopes a severe blow.

Mario Lemieux set up two third-period goals to get the Penguins even before Sandstrom beat them. The loss dropped the Penguins five points behind the third-place Rangers in the Patrick Division and four behind fourth-place Washington.

Ranger goalie Bob Froese is 17-1-0 lifetime against the Penguins.

Toronto 6, Calgary 4--Steve Thomas scored twice at Toronto, and the Maple Leafs moved within two points of Minnesota in the battle for the final playoff spot in the Norris Division.

The Flames, the best road team in the NHL, had won four in a row. They fired 42 shots at goalie Ken Wregget, who gave up 10 goals in a loss to Washington Friday night, but he made some brilliant stops.

Washington 3, St. Louis 3--Left wing Dave Christian scored from a scramble in front of the net with 5:36 remaining in regulation to give the Capitals a tie.

Christian's 21st goal stretched the Capitals' unbeaten string on St. Louis ice to eight games. They last lost there Jan. 5, 1982.

Philadelphia 3, Montreal 3--Scott Mellanby knocked in a rebound of his own missed shot midway through the last period at Montreal to give the Flyers a tie.

Guy Carbonneau hit the post with a shot early in the final period, then Flyer goalie Ron Hextall made spectacular saves on close in shots by Mike McPhee and Brian Skrudland to save the tie.

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