Even before Wayne Gretzky arrived in the National Hockey League, scoring was on the increase. Scoreless ties were almost extinct, and 1-0 games were scarce.
Gretzky made offense an art, and the trend to scoring has continued into the new season. A 2-goal lead, once almost an assurance of victory, is nothing these days.
The high-scoring Pittsburgh Penguins, behind Mario Lemieux’s fourth goal in 2 nights, jumped ahead, 2-0, in the first period Wednesday night at Buffalo. Eleven minutes into the second period, they were trailing, 5-2, and the Sabres went on to an 8-5 victory.
It was the first loss of the season for Lemieux and his teammates, who have scored 19 goals in 3 games.
Dave Andreychuk, who missed the first 3 games of the season, led the comeback of the Sabres, who were thoroughly dominated in the first period. Andreychuk had a hand in 4 Buffalo goals in the second period, getting 2 goals and 2 assists. The veteran center completed a hat trick in the final period.
First, Andreychuk set up Christian Ruuttu on a power play at 3:26. Then Andreychuk scored his first goal to tie the game at 8:26. After Ruuttu’s second goal at 9:38 gave Buffalo the lead for good, Andreychuk scored at 10:01, and the Penguins trailed by 2 goals.
The crowd expected Lemieux to dominate the game as usual. But after his opening goal, Andreychuk took charge of the festivities.
“It’s good to win and it’s great to come back,” said Andreychuk, who had been out with an injured knee. “We got off to a shaky start, but we were able to turn it around. I have positive feelings about our team.”
This was only one of numerous high-scoring games in the first week of the season.
“These high-scoring games are not surprising this early,” Lemieux, the league’s leading scorer last season, said. “It seems the defenses really don’t start doing the job until after a few games have been played.”
Chicago 10, Winnipeg 1--The Blackhawks, who won only 30 games last season, hired Mike Keenan, a proven winner at Philadelphia, in hopes that he could turn the team around.
After going 3 games without a victory, the Blackhawks exploded in this one at Chicago.
Denis Savard tied a club record with a pair of short-handed goals, and he added 3 assists.
Vancouver 6, Edmonton 2--The Oilers played extremely well in their first two games at home without Wayne Gretzky, but they fell flat in their third.
Greg Adams, who scored 36 goals last season, had a hat trick and an assist as the lowly Canucks took charge early and kept the pressure on throughout.
All-Star goalie Grant Fuhr faced 34 shots in the first 40 minutes. He made 30 saves in the first 2 periods, but the damage was done.
Hartford 4, New York Rangers 3--After picking up 3 points in their first two games on the road, the Rangers expected to fatten up during their first home stand.
But New Jersey, behind young goaltender Sean Burke, shut out the Rangers Monday to spoil their home opener at Madison Square Garden, and the Whalers ended their 3-game losing streak in this one.
Carey Wilson and rookie Jody Hull scored the second-period goals that put Hartford in front, and Mike Liut made key saves in the third period to give the Whalers their first win of the season.
Quebec 6, Montreal 5--The Nordiques, off to a 3-1 start, won the first battle of Quebec province in this game at Montreal.
Walt Poddubny, a veteran obtained in a trade with the Rangers, scored two goals, including the game-winner halfway through the second period.
Joe Sakic, 19, scored his fourth goal of the season and added an assist for the Nordiques.
St. Louis 4, Toronto 2--Brett Hull scored the tie-breaking goal at 4:40 of the final period at Toronto to give the Blues a 2-1 record.