The Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers had finally rounded into form 10 days ago when their best player, Mark Messier, reinjured his knee.
Messier has been out of the lineup much of the season. Earlier when he was hurt, the Oilers won only one of 12 games.
Craig MacTavish, who has been known as a defensive center in his 10 seasons in the NHL, took it upon himself to make up for Messier on offense. Under his leadership, the Oilers have flourished.
MacTavish had another goal and goaltender Bill Ranford made 38 saves at Edmonton Sunday night to lead the Oilers to a 4-3 victory over Hartford.
It was the Oilers’ fifth consecutive victory since Messier’s latest injury. In the five games MacTavish, who had only three goals in the first 32 games, has scored six goals.
The Oilers, who opened the season with only two victories in the first 15 games, pulled above .500 for the first time this season.
The terrible start left the Oilers 19 points behind the Smythe Division leader, the Kings. With an 18-17-2 record, the Oilers are only three points behind the Kings and eight out of first place.
Esa Tikkanen, another Oiler who has started to roll on offense, scored twice as the Oilers opened a 4-1 lead by the middle of the second period.
“Most of my goals lately have come because of our tight checking game,” MacTavish said. “I’m not really a great scorer, but give me good shots around the net and I’ll put the puck in it.”
New Jersey 2, N.Y. Rangers 2--The Devils are fit to be tied lately. Although they stretched their unbeaten streak to eight in this game at New York, they have won only three games in the spurt.
This was their third consecutive tie. Mike Gartner scored his 20th goal on a power-play late in the second period to tie the score, 2-2. All four goals were scored in less than 14 minutes of the period.
Goaltenders Chris Terreri of the Devils and John Vanbiesbrouck of the Rangers took charge after that. Vanbiesbrouck had to stop four New Jersey shots in overtime.
Both goalies had to stop a breakaway in regulation. Vanbiesbrouck stopped a point blank shot by Brendan Shanahan with two minutes left. On the return up ice, Gartner went in alone and Terreri made a brilliant save.