He still operates from the edges of the action—behind the net, along the boards, weaving at center ice—where it is easier to get the puck to him. He then creates his havoc from those spots. However, in a concession to his years, he seldom drives to the net with abandon, which has led to a drop-off in his goal production.
In Game 3 against the Canucks, however, Gretzky scored his 100th and 101st playoff goals—extending his own record—in a 7-4 King win. That victory came in suddenly hockey-mad Los Angeles, where the town's sycophantic celebs were now scrambling to press flesh inside the Kings' dressing room. Gretzky scored once on a two-on-one and once into an open net.
The game's No. 1 star, though, was the 32-year-old Kurri, who scored his fourth goal of the postseason (and 97th of his playoff career) by blowing past Vancouver defenseman Gerald Diduck and roofing the puck over goalie Kirk McLean. Kurri looked as if he were 22 again. "Jari's like a goalie who never makes the tough saves look difficult," said Gretzky. "He's got to be up there with [Toronto center] Doug Gilmour as the best two-way player in the game."
Gretzky, for his part, has come around to thinking that the 39 games he missed may have been a blessing in disguise. "Mentally, it may have been the best thing that could have happened to me," he says. "I'd played so much hockey in my career that it gave me a chance to recharge my batteries. I found that I missed the game. Not just the hockey—everything. The traveling, the dressing room, the people, the peaks and valleys. And it was good for my teammates, too. They got to gain their own identity, gain confidence in each other and themselves. I learned a long time ago that one person can't win a championship in sports. But you can feed off each other."
When Gretzky joined the Kings, he said he had two goals: to help sell hockey in Southern California and to bring the area its first Stanley Cup. He has achieved the first goal, and while he still has a long way to go to reach the second, he's closer now than he has ever been before. Close enough, at least, to dream about the possibility of facing Lemieux in the Stanley Cup finals. "I'd love to go head-to-head against him," Gretzky says. "Like I loved to watch Bird and Magic in the NBA playoffs. That's what sports are about. He'll be ready. I'll be ready. Because, you know"—the Great One gets that glint in his eye as he says this—"I can still play this game."