Wayne Gretzky scored four goals -- Three in the second period--in a magnificent individual performance last night in Edmonton to give the Oilers a 6-3 triumph over the Winnipeg Jets in the first game of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.
Edmonton hosts Game 2 of the best-of-five Smythe Division series tonight, while Game 3 is slated for Winnipeg Saturday.
Gretzky tied two playoff records by scoring two short-handed goals and getting three goals in the middle period. In playoff history, 12 players have had hat tricks in one period and two have had two short-handed goals in one game.
The Jets tried to stem the Edmonton attack with intense forechecking and were able to keep the game scoreless until the Oilers struck for three goals in a span of only 1:46 in a rugged first period that included 14 penalties.
The first two goals, by Ken Linseman and Dave Hunter, came at the 14-minute mark in a span of seven seconds--only two seconds shy of the playoff record for the fastest two goals.
With the Oilers short-handed, Gretzky padded the lead on a sparkling breakaway at 15:58 when he chased down the puck near the blueline and swooped in alone. The slick centerman faked goalie Brian Hayward to his knees and flipped the puck into an open net. The Jets came back with a fluke goal at 17:31 as Paul MacLean's shot deflected off the skate of Brian Mullen.
Gretzky increased the margin to 4-1 nine seconds into the second period. He took a pass from Glenn Anderson, waited for a brief moment until Hayward committed himself then eased the puck into the net.
His next two goals came on mistakes. Bengt Lundholm lost the puck at center ice during a Winnipeg power play and Jarri Kurri flung a pass to Gretzky, who scored from 15 feet out. At the 12-minute mark, Dave Christian put an errant pass onto the stick of Gretzky, who raced in alone to slip the puck between Hayward's legs.
Edmonton center Garry Unger injured his shoulder on the opening shift of the game and will likely be sidelined for the rest of the series.