When the struggling New York Islanders asked former Coach Al Arbour to return and lead them out of the wilderness last season, Arbour knew he was facing the biggest challenge of his career.
Unlike the Islander team of the early '70s that Arbour molded into a Stanley Cup champion by the end of the decade, this team wasn't starting from scratch - it was a mixture of aging veterans, directionless journeymen, promising rookies and Pat Lafontaine, the only sheer offensive weapon available to Arbour.The former NHL defenseman had to teach these Islanders how to play defense the Arbour way, from the goal line out, patrolling every inch of the ice in their own end like infantry fighting trench warfare.
Arbour got exactly that kind of performance from his team Sunday night and the Islanders won their first game of the season in one of the most unlikely places, Chicago Auditorium, home of the Blackhawks and the NHL's most vocal fans. Final score - 4-2 in favor of New York.
The Islanders jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead on power-play goals by Doug Crossman and Pat Lafontaine sandwiched between a short-handed breakaway goal by Hubie McDonough, then held on as the Blackhawks attacked relentlessly for the rest of the game.
The Blackhawks outshot the Islanders 22-2 in the second period but rookie goaltender Jeff Hackett wouldn't give in. Hackett stopped 14 shots in the period before David Volek, with an assist from Lafontaine, scored a power-play goal at 13:27 to give New York a 4-0 lead.
"I think Jeff got a big lift tonight in a building that is very tough to win in," said Arbour.
"The kids played well and it was a great effort by our defense," added Lafontaine.
Oilers 3, Maple Leafs 2
At Edmonton, Joe Murphy scored two goals, including the game-winner, and linemate Adam Graves picked up two assists.
Flyers 7, Red Wings 2
At Philadelphia, Norman LaCombe, Tony Horacek and Craig Berube all scored in the first 3:23 of the second period to rally the Flyers to their first victory of the season.
Bruins 5, Nordiques 2
At Quebec, Glen Wesley scored a goal and assisted on two others, including the game-winner by Randy Burrage at 9:41 of the third period.
Penguins 7, Devils 4
At Pittsburgh, Bryan Trottier scored two goals and Czechoslovakian rookie Jaromir Jagr scored the first of his NHL career. Trottier's first goal as a Penguin, at 13:08 of the third period, triggered a four-goal outburst.