Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gretzky Shows He Still Can Be the Great One Goals Come Less Often, but He Shows He Has Plenty Left

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gretzky Shows He Still Can Be the Great One Goals Come Less Often, but He Shows He Has Plenty Left

Article excerpt

When people look back on the 3-2 victory that moved the New York Rangers one win away from the Stanley Cup quarterfinals, it will be remembered simply as The Gretzky Game.

Wayne Gretzky scored all three goals, his ninth playoff hat trick, as the Rangers defeated the Florida Panthers to take control of their first-round NHL playoff series.

Gretzky constructed this hat trick in quick time, 6 minutes 23 seconds of the second period. "Those things happen," he said. "I guess they happened a little bit more when I was younger." At age 36, Gretzky is no longer the goal-scoring machine who once terrorized NHL netminders and set a record with 92 goals in a season. There was a stretch during the regular season when the greatest scorer in the sport's history went 21 games without a goal. Game after game, he would take his shifts, set up shots for other Rangers but never found the net himself. He finished the season as the Rangers' leading scorer with 97 points but only 25 goals. And the whispers started that he might be done. So two playoff games in two nights and three in four would be the ultimate test, the kind of challenge that Gretzky thrives on. "Wayne wanted to go," coach Colin Campbell said. "He was asking for more ice. He has a quest all the time to make sure the detractors are never right." "As an athlete you always have something to prove," Gretzky said. "You're only as old as you think you are." Gretzky grabbed the fourth game of the series against Florida and claimed it for himself. With the Rangers trailing 1-0, he converted a pretty pass from Brian Leetch with a power-play slap shot that zipped past Panthers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck at 3:07. The second goal was almost identical, another neat pass, this one from Luc Robitaille, and another slap shot, this time at 6:46 with the teams at equal strength. It was on the third goal that Gretzky displayed the moves that made him a superstar. …

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