Thirty-nine years ago Saturday, Wayne Gretzky uttered his most famous quote after he collected a hat trick and finished with eight points in the Edmonton Oilers’ rout of the New Jersey Devils.
“Well, it’s time they got their act together,” Gretzky said. “They’re ruining the whole league. They had better stop running a Mickey Mouse organization and put somebody on the ice.”
On Monday night, the Devils can provide more proof of how far they’ve come in the last four decades — and in the last month — by chasing a record-tying victory against the Oilers when the teams face off in Newark, N.J.
Both teams earned wins Saturday. The red-hot Devils recorded their 12th straight victory after cruising past the host Ottawa Senators, 5-1. The Oilers concluded a two-game homestand by defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in overtime.
New Jersey’s 12-game winning streak is the second-longest in franchise history and one shy of tying the record 13-game run produced from Feb. 26 through March 23, 2001. At the time the Devils were the defending Stanley Cup champion and in the midst of a 24-season stretch in which they qualified for the playoffs 21 times, won the Cup three times and made two additional trips to the Finals.
The Devils of recent vintage haven’t quite fallen to the depths of the early ’80s — the infamous 13-4 loss to Gretzky and the Oilers on Nov. 19, 1983 dropped that team to 2-18-0 — but this winning streak has vaulted New Jersey back into what had become unfamiliar air.
The Devils have missed the playoffs nine times in 10 seasons since the Stanley Cup Finals in the spring of 2012 and opened this season with consecutive 5-2 losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings. But New Jersey has outscored the opposition 64-32 over the last 16 games, including 51-22 during the winning streak.
On Saturday night, the Devils scored a power-play goal and a short-handed goal while third-string goalie Akira Schmid made 25 saves.
“When you get on a run like this, (there’s) a lot of good things that can happen,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said Saturday. “I thought tonight was a total team game.”
The win over the Golden Knights continued a hot-and-cold stretch for the Oilers, who have alternated losses with wins over their last six games and haven’t won back-to-back games since a five-game winning streak from Oct. 24 through Nov. 1.
The Oilers’ last three wins have all come against elite teams. Prior to edging the Golden Knights — who lead the Western Conference with 29 points — on Connor McDavid’s game-winner 1:17 into overtime, Edmonton beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, which won the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021 and reached the Finals last spring, and knocked off the Florida Panthers, last year’s President’s Trophy winners.
The Devils’ game starts a three-game road trip for the Oilers. Edmonton visits the New York Islanders on Wednesday before facing the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s fun to play good teams,” said Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who had three assists Saturday. “You’ve got to rise to the occasion and (Vegas) has been one of the hottest teams in the league so far. So we knew that coming in and obviously we needed to step our game up. To get the two points against that team is definitely big and we’ve got to keep that feeling going on the road here.”
–Field Level Media