This was supposed to be a special occasion for the New York Islanders.
They had occupied last place in the Patrick Division all of last season and this season, too.
All the improving young team had to do was beat the hapless Nordiques Saturday night at Quebec to climb over Pittsburgh and finally escape the cellar.
Everything was going along splendidly. Derek King’s second-period goal gave the Islanders, who had won five in a row, a 2-0 lead.
But, with Greg Millen playing well in his first game in the nets for the Nordiques, Quebec scored five goals in a row and went on to win, 6-3.
The victory ended a club record 14-game winless streak. The Nordiques had not won since beating Hartford Nov. 22 and had not won at home since Nov. 11.
Millen, obtained from St. Louis in a trade Dec. 13, had refused to report. But the Nordiques sweetened the pot and Millen recently changed his mind. He stopped 35 shots to become an instant hero to Quebec fans.
“He responded like an old pro and what was important for him was a victory and we got one,” said Nordique Coach Michel Bergeron. “He brings us the confidence we need out there.”
As for his debut with his new team, Millen said: “I was not really all that nervous once the game started.”
Calgary 5, Montreal 3--It was only a few years ago that the Canadiens looked upon a Western trip as a vacation.
It is quite different now. The Smythe Division has developed into probably the NHL’s best.
Al MacInnis scored twice at Calgary to end the Flames’ three-game unbeaten streak and hand the Canadiens their third loss in a row. In previous games, the Canadiens lost at Vancouver and Edmonton.
The Canadiens have dropped seven points behind Buffalo in the Adams Division.
Toronto 7, Boston 6--The Maple Leafs scored six goals in a row at Toronto to end a seven-game losing streak.
Wendel Clark scored out of a scramble in front of the net at 3:19 of overtime to climax the rally.
With just a minute left in the second period, the Bruins had taken a 6-1 lead.
But Clark set up Vincent Damphousse with a score and the Maple Leafs rallied in the last period. Ed Olczyk scored twice, including the tying goal with 7:06 left in regulation.
The Bruins, who scored six times on 31 shots in the first 39 minutes, had only four more shots on goal in the last 26:10.
Chicago 7, Hartford 3--Denis Savard and linemate Steve Larmer led the Blackhawks to an easy victory at Chicago.
Savard had three goals and two assists, and Larmer had a goal and four assists.
“It felt good playing with Al (Secord) and Steve again,” Savard said. “Al has worked really hard all year. Steve works hard. It might not show much, but he get a lot done out there. Maybe if we play well, we’ll play the rest of the year together.”
The Blackhawks are 8-3-1 in the last 12 games and they ended the Whalers’ four-game unbeaten streak.
St. Louis 3, Minnesota 2--Brett Hull scored his 32nd goal and added an assist at St. Louis to lead the Blues.
The North Stars are winless in their last six games and are 1-12-2 in the last 15 games.