Wayne Gretzky put on quite a show tonight as he established a National Hockey League record for a first-year player and tied an NHL mark for most assists in a game as the Edmonton Oilers whipped the Washington Capitals, 8-2.
Gretzky finished with seven assists to up his season point total to 96, breaking the old mark of 95 ('75-'76) held by Brian Trottier of the New York Islanders.
Gretzky shares the assist record with Billy Taylor, who set the mark in March of 1947 while playing for the Detroit Red Wings against the Chicago Black Hawks.
"It makes it easy," said Gretzsky. "Everybody was scoring. I just had to make a pass and everybody was putting it in.
"It was one of those nights where you just go out there, think you can do it, and do it."
"Gretzsky is one of those guys who will capitalize on a night like tonight when we're not playing well," said Capital Coach Gary Green. "When the whole team is as slow as we were tonight, in reacting, we're just not going to stop him.
"The kid's great, there's no question about it. He dominated everything."
The Capitals started out well enough but the Oilers' rough play did them in.
There were two minor skirmishes in the first 68 seconds of the game, played before 15,423 Northlands Coliseum fans, as the Oilers continued to show the form which brought them a 5-3 win in Bloomington, Minn., Wednesday. s
Oiler Dave Hunter and Mike Gartner went off for roughing after only 14 seconds. Edmonton's Colin Campbell and Alan Hangsleben had a brief bout at 1:08 that also resulted in minors for roughing assessed by referee Ron Harris.
Hangsleben surprised goalie Jim Corsi with a hard 50-foot shot to give the Caps the lead at 16:54 of the first period, but it was all downhill from there as the Oilers' 19-year-old sensation Gretzky put on a show for the usual sellout crowd.
He made an excellent pass to set up left winger Brett Callinghen with 2:56 left in the opening period before Stan Weir scored his 29th goal at 18:18 after a fine play by right winger Dave Lumley.
Edmonton controlled the second period outshooting the Caps, 15-5, to take a 23-14 advantage overall, and increased its lead to 5-1 before the period was half over.
Gretzky was again behind the Oiler surge as he raised his point total for the season to 93 with three second-period assists, giving him four for the night.
Right winger Blair MacDonald was the recipient of Gretzky's first two passes in the second. MacDonald finally hit the 35-goal level with two straight goals, the first one on a power play at 4:45 and the second just over four minutes later.
Gretzky was seeing double duty at center on a line with left winger Dave Semenko and Bobby Schmautz when he picked up his fourth point. Gretzky started the play, giving the puck to Semenko behind the net, and Semenko got the puck out to the veteran Schmautz in front.
Caps goalie Wayne Stephenson had made a few good saves to start the game, but he didn't have much help.