After finishing second in the Adams Division last spring, the Boston Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals before being blown away by Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers.
With Gretzky now playing for the Kings, the Bruins believe they are the favorites in the National Hockey League.
Thursday, Cam Neely directed a pass from Michael Thelven 9 seconds into a power play in the third period at Boston to help the Bruins open the season with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Goaltender Reggie Lemelin, a star in the playoffs, had to face only 18 shots. The first shot, by Daniel Marois, just 2:26 into the game, was the only one that got away.
Later in the period, Neely, who had 42 goals and 27 assists last season, set up Craig Janney’s goal that tied the game. Until Neely broke the tie, goalies Lemelin and Ken Wregget had excelled.
“We did what we had to do in the third period,” Boston Coach Terry O’Reilly said. “I would prefer for my own health and welfare that they aren’t all 1-goal games. But I can’t put in a special order for that.”
St. Louis 8, Minnesota 3--Brett Hull, the son of Bobby Hull, is off to a fast start in his second NHL season.
Hull, a 24-year-old right wing, scored goals 6 minutes apart in the first period at Bloomington, Minn., to get Brian Sutter off to a winning debut as a coach.
Sutter, who will be 32 today, was a star for the Blues until injuries ended his career last season. He is the youngest coach in the league.
The Blues spoiled the debut of Pierre Page as coach of the North Stars. Page took over a club that won only 19 of 80 games last season.
Philadelphia 4, New Jersey 1--In Philadelphia, another former player, Paul Holmgren, had a successful debut as coach of the team he once played for.
Scott Mellanby broke a 1-1 tie when he deflected a shot from the point between the pads of Sean Burke at 6:31 of the second period.
Ron Hextall, who gave up an early goal to Tom Kurvers, played the way he did as a rookie two seasons ago, protecting the lead. With less than a minute remaining in the second period, Derrick Smith gave him a 3-1 lead, and it was all over.
It was a busy night for Hextall. He stopped 32 shots, 13 in the last period.
“We’re going to be a team that’s going to be taking a lot of chances,” Holmgren said. “We’re going to be aggressive and try to make things happen.”
Hextall said he thought Holmgren seemed relaxed.
“He had the advantage of being here as the assistant coach,” Hextall said. “I think he knows how to handle us.”
Buffalo 3, Montreal 2--Ray Sheppard scored twice, and rookie Benoit Hogue had a goal and an assist at Buffalo, N.Y., to spoil the debut of Pat Burns as coach of the Canadiens.
The Canadiens scored on a goal by Bobby Smith late in the first period, but Tom Barrasso, a 6-year veteran at 23, held them at bay until the Sabres pulled in front, 3-1, on Sheppard’s second goal midway through the last period.
In the last 40 minutes, Montreal had only 9 shots on goal.
“We could have broken on top with 3 goals, but 2 shots hit the post,” Burns said. “It was a textbook first period. For some reason or other, we changed our style and gave them the openings.”
Quebec 5, Hartford 2--Peter Stastny scored 2 goals and assisted on 2 others at Hartford, Conn., to lead the Nordiques to an impressive opening victory.
The Whalers, one of the poorest offensive teams in the league last season, failed to score on 11 of their 12 power-play opportunities.
Peter Stastny scored twice, and his brother, Anton, also scored to give Quebec a 3-0 lead before the midway point of the first period. Hartford cut the lead to 3-2 with 8:47 left in the period, but Bob Mason shut them down the rest of the night.
New York Rangers 2, Chicago 2--Ulf Dahlen scored twice in the third period at Chicago to bring the Rangers from behind twice.
The Blackhawks were playing their first game under Mike Keenan, who was fired as coach of the Philadelphia Flyers after last season.
Guy Lafleur, who retired from the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 24, 1984, played in his first comeback game for the Rangers. Now 37, Lafleur showed he can still skate, but he was not on the ice for any of the goals.
Jim Waite, a 19-year-old goaltender, stopped 31 shots, 15 of them in the hectic final 20 minutes, in his first game for the Blackhawks.
New York Islanders 4, Calgary 4--Joe Nieuwendyk, last year’s rookie of the year, climaxed a 3-goal last-period rally at Calgary, scoring the goal that earned the tie.
The Islanders built a 4-1 lead in the first two periods. But Calgary’s Gary Suter and Colin Patterson scored 21 seconds apart in the final period. With 5:47 left in regulation, Nieuwendyk tied it.
The Flames outshot the Islanders, 45-26, but New York goalie Kelly Hrudey was sharp for the first 50 minutes.
Winnipeg 2, Vancouver 2--Defenseman Teppo Numminen scored with one minute left in regulation, giving the Jets the tie with the Canucks at Vancouver, Canada.
Numminen, who was caught flat-footed when Steve Bozek streaked around him to put the Canucks ahead, 2-1, midway through the third period, lofted a harmless-looking wrist shot from the Vancouver blue line that eluded goalie Kirk McLean and found the net just under the crossbar. Neither team made a serious threat in overtime.