In 15 seasons of competition, the Patrick Division has generally been considered the strongest division in the National Hockey League.
A Patrick team has often either won the Stanley Cup or at least reached the final. But recently, the teams have been like claimers in a horse race. They take turns beating each other and don't fare well in the playoffs.
Nobody seems good enough to win the division this season. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers have all gone into slumps after taking over first place.
At home Wednesday night, the Rangers, the current leader, had a marvelous opportunity to solidify their position.
But Tim Kerr, recovering from a shoulder injury, scored three goals to carry the Philadelphia Flyers to a 6-4 victory.
The Flyers trailed, 3-2, going into the final period, but when Kerr took over, the Rangers faded.
First, he set up Pelle Eklund's tying goal at 5:12, then 31 seconds later, put the Flyers ahead to stay. He completed his hat trick halfway through the period. He had a first-period goal and an assist for a five-point night.
Kerr's shoulder is a recurring problem, for which he has had surgery five times. The three goals gave him 37 goals in 52 games this season.
"This was a great game for us to win," Kerr said. "Three goals can make you forget the shoulder."
The Rangers lead the division with 70 points. Pittsburgh, with two games in hand, is next at 69. Washington is a close third with 68 points. The victory put the Flyers in the picture with 63 points.
Toronto 4, Calgary 3--There's no doubt that the Maple Leafs have been improving lately, but still a victory at Calgary is a shock.
Gary Leeman scored with 49 seconds left in overtime to give the Maple Leafs only the third win this season for a visiting team at Calgary.
The Leafs built a 3-0 lead in the second period, then couldn't hold it.
Montreal 6, Winnipeg 3--While other teams are having their troubles, the Canadiens, who have already clinched a playoff spot, go merrily on their way.
Guy Carbonneau had a goal and two assists at Montreal to lead the Canadiens to a relatively easy victory. The Canadiens, 25 points in front in the Adams Division, are 9-3-1 in their last 13 games.
Goaltender Patrick Roy had an easy night. Most of his 25 saves were on shots from long range.
The Canadiens' Mike McPhee was out with a broken toe.
Scott Arniel and Kevin Maguire each scored twice, and the Sabres twice overcame three-point deficits to ruin rookie Jeff Hackett's first NHL start.
The Islanders traded Kelly Hrudey to the Kings earlier in the day. Hackett was the first goalie other than Hrudey or Billy Smith to start for the Islanders since 1984.
Vaive, who has a pinched nerve in his neck, has scored 19 goals in 25 games for the Sabres.
Islanders' Coach Al Arbour defended Hackett, who let in several soft goals.
"It's his first start. I'm sure he had butterflies," Arbour said. "He's young and he's learning. We feel he will be a good one."
Minnesota 5, Chicago 5--Warren Babe, Ken Hodge and Don Barber all scored their first NHL goals in the last eight minutes at Chicago to give the North Stars the tie.
Barber's tying goal came with just eight seconds left in regulation, climaxing a brilliant comeback.
Chicago goalie Alain Chevrier held the Stars to one goal in 40 minutes, then fell apart. He was injured on Barber's goal and had to be helped off the ice. The extent of his injury was unknown.