Take the greatest offensive force in hockey away from the Edmonton Oilers and they are just another team.
Wayne Gretzky, bothered by a sprained knee, missed his ninth game in nine seasons Saturday at Landover, Md., and the Washington Capitals took advantage of his absence to shut out the Oilers, 2-0.
Goalie Clint Malarchuk wasn’t sorry at all that he didn’t have the eight-time scoring champion to contend with. Malarchuk handled 28 shots flawlessly.
Gretzky injured his knee Wednesday night while playing one of his finest games of the season as the Oilers ended the Philadelphia Flyers’ 14-game unbeaten streak with a 6-0 victory. Gretzky set up three goals in the first period, then hurt his knee while scoring his 30th goal late in the game.
Saturday, only spectacular goaltending by Edmonton’s Grant Fuhr made it a close game. Bengt Gustafsson broke the scoreless tie with a power-play goal after 37 minutes. Fuhr, who stopped 27 shots, had been removed before Kelly Miller scored into an empty net for Washington’s other goal with 13 seconds remaining.
“It helped not having to worry about Gretzky,” Malarchuk said after gaining his sixth career shutout. “There is no doubt that Gretzky is the greatest hockey player in the world. But even without him, they have guys like Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson to worry about.”
Boston 5, Quebec 1--It was one of those games in which there seemed to be more people in the penalty box than there were skaters on the ice.
The Bruins, although they spent more time in the box than the Nordiques in this game at Boston, dominated when the teams were equal.
There were 219 minutes in penalties assessed, including 11 fighting majors and 7 game misconducts, but there was only one power-play goal.
Ken Linseman of the Bruins scored it with 84 seconds left in the first period, less than a minute after Rick Middleton broke the scoreless tie to get the Bruins going.
Reggie Lemelin, who shut out Buffalo on New Year’s Eve, lost his bid for consecutive shutouts when Peter Stastny scored with 5:18 left in the game.
Philadelphia 4, Vancouver 1--The Flyers needed a breather on their rough trip West and they got one in Vancouver.
Dave Poulin and Pelle Eklund scored 11 seconds apart in the second period to give goaltender Ron Hextall a nice cushion.
Hextall, who rested a game after giving up six goals to Edmonton Wednesday night, had a busy night. He stopped 39 shots, losing a shutout when Jean Leblanc scored late in the second period.
The Flyers had an unbeaten string of 14 games snapped at Edmonton and also lost, 5-4, at Calgary Thursday night.
St. Louis 5, Calgary 3--Herb Raglan scored two goals and assisted on another at St. Louis, and goalie Rick Wamsley continued to dominate the Flames.
Wamsley stopped 26 shots to improve his record against the Smythe Division leaders to 12-3.
New York Islanders 3, Pittsburgh 2--Pat LaFontaine scored his 26th goal in the third period at Uniondale, N.Y., to break a 2-2 tie and keep the Islanders in a tie for first place in the Patrick Division.
Mario Lemieux scored his 32nd goal in the second period when the Penguins were a man short. It gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead with 37 minutes left, but goalie Billy Smith never allowed another score.
Hartford 1, New Jersey 1--Mike Liut celebrated his 500th NHL game with a dazzling exhibition of goaltending at Hartford.
Liut had 11 saves in the third period and two more in overtime to assure the Whalers of a tie. The Whalers managed only two shots in the last 25 minutes, none in the five-minute overtime.
New York Rangers 5, Minnesota 3--The North Stars are one of the few teams that prefer the road to home. With James Patrick scoring twice and assisting on another, the Rangers handed the North Stars their sixth loss in the last seven home games.
The North Stars, who are 2-9-1 in their last 12 games, are only 6-13-1 at Bloomington, Minn.
Buffalo 6, Toronto 4--By the middle of the second period at Toronto, the Maple Leafs had a 3-1 lead. But Mike Foligno scored the next two goals for the Sabres and assisted on another as the Sabres scored five in a row.
The rally spoiled the return of Toronto star Wendel Clark, who had missed 23 games with a back injury. He had 2 assists.