Only the Minnesota North Stars had a worse record than the Toronto Maple Leafs in the National Hockey League last season. Fortunately for the Maple Leafs, both teams are in the Norris Division, and Toronto reached the playoffs.
A major problem for the Maple Leafs was their inability to win on the road. But in a surprising turnabout this season, they have the most points in the league--12--because of their road record.
At Detroit Friday night, Darren Veitch and rookie Daniel Marois scored 51 seconds apart in the second period to lead the Maple Leafs to a 4-2 victory over the Red Wings. It gave Toronto a 4-1 road record, a 6-3 overall mark and a 5-point lead in the division.
Last season, when it accumulated only 52 points, Toronto was 7-29-4 away from Maple Leaf Gardens.
Gary Leeman had 3 assists for the Maple Leafs, who were outshot in the game, 29-19, and had only 2 shots in the third period but played stellar defense. Ken Wregget was tough in the nets, and the Maple Leafs held high-scoring Steve Yzerman without a point for the first time in 7 games.
“What I like about this team,” said Leeman, who has 16 points in 9 games, “is the patience and consistency of the entire team.
“We gave up so many goals last year and had the worst power-play team. I think we have corrected those two problems.”
The defense has been helped by the acquisition of two big defensemen, Brad Marsh (6 feet 3 inches) and Brian Curran (6-5).
“I hope we’re off to a season of glory,” Toronto Coach John Brophy said, “but I’m sure the rest of the National Hockey League has started to take notice.”
It was a special occasion for Veitch, who put the Maple Leafs ahead to stay, 2-1, in the second period with his first goal of the season.
He was one of 7 Red Wings disciplined last spring for breaking curfew during the playoffs with Edmonton. He was traded to the Maple Leafs for Miroslav Frycer after the playoffs.
“Anytime you get traded and score against the team that traded you, it’s nice,” Veitch said.
New York Rangers 4, Washington 1--The combination of Marcel Dionne and Guy Lafleur is keeping the Rangers in the battle for first place in the competitive Patrick Division.
Each scored a goal and Dionne had 2 assists at Landover, Md., to lead the Rangers to their 2nd victory over the Capitals in 3 nights.
Dionne scored his 1st goal of the season 7:52 into the 1st period, then assisted on the next 2. He has 6 points in the last 4 games.
The Rangers (4-2-1) are only 1 point out of 1st place.
Buffalo 5, Montreal 3--Dave Andreychuk and Mike Foligno both scored twice in the first 22 minutes at Buffalo as the Sabres built a 5-0 lead.
After the early offensive display, the Sabres went into a shell, and it took brilliant work by goaltender Daren Puppa to hold off the Canadiens.
The Canadiens outshot the Sabres, 42-18, including a 15-1 margin in the last period, when most of the game was played in the Sabre end.
The Canadiens, who are off to one of their worst starts in several years, managed only 1 goal in the final period and fell to 3-5.
New Jersey 6, Pittsburgh 4--Kirk Muller broke a third-period tie with his second goal of the game to give the Devils their first home victory of the season.
Mario Lemieux led the Penguins’ attack, getting 2 goals and 1 assist. Lemieux, who is off to an excellent start, has 11 goals and 22 points in just 6 games.
Lemieux’s first goal gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead in the second period, but Muller’s first goal tied it, and the Penguins were never in front again.