Guy Lafleur played in his 1,000th National Hockey League game Monday night at New York, but it was rookie defenseman Brian Leetch, playing in just his 61st, who led the Rangers to a 7-3 victory over their bitter rivals, the New York Islanders.
Leetch, one of two graduates of the U.S. Olympic team who have helped lift the Rangers into first place in the Patrick Division, scored twice, once with his team a man short.
Lafleur, the former Montreal Canadiens great who is making a comeback with the Rangers after 4 years in retirement, is the 66th player to reach the 1,000 mark. He assisted on Leetch's first goal midway through the second period.
The Rangers, who increased their lead in the division to 4 points over the Pittsburgh Penguins, had only a 4-3 lead after 2 periods, but Leetch put them in command when he stole the puck on an Islander power play and went in alone to beat Kelly Hrudey at 3:35 of the third period.
The other U.S. star, Tony Granato, kept his streak of playing every game intact, although he suffered a concussion Saturday night at Toronto. Granato, who assisted on the first goal, has 31 goals and 51 points.
Leetch, who has 15 goals in 45 games this season, has a chance to break the record for most goals by a rookie defenseman. Barry Beck of the Colorado Rockies (now the New Jersey Devils) had 22 in 1977-78.
Last season, without Lafleur and the two youngsters, the Rangers were one of five teams that failed to make the playoffs. This season, they figure to make it easily.
Lafleur played in his first NHL game 17 years ago. For the Rangers, he has 10 goals and 19 assists and is a steadying influence on the youngsters.
The Rangers are 6-0-1 in their last 7 games at home against the Islanders. The teams have played it close through the years; the series stands at 50-50-7.
Quebec 4, Detroit 3--The Red Wings scored the first goal and the last two at Detroit, but in between, the Nordiques were in command.
Iiro Jarvi and Walt Poddubny scored 94 seconds apart in a 4-goal second-period outburst that gave the improving Nordiques a 4-1 lead. They are 5-2-1 in their last 8 games.
Chicago 7, Toronto 1--The Blackhawks, a much-improved club, dominated the Maple Leafs at Chicago, holding them to only 16 shots on goal.
The Blackhawks, who won only 11 of their first 43 games, have won 5 of their last 9 to move out of last place in the Norris Division ahead of Toronto.
Duane Sutter had a goal and 2 assist for the Blackhawks, who scored their 7 goals in the first 37 minutes.
Washington 4, Minnesota 4--Dino Ciccarelli scored his second goal with just 63 seconds left in regulation at Bloomington, Minn., to get the North Stars a tie.
The North Stars had just pulled goalie Kari Takko to get an extra attacker on the ice when Ciccarelli tipped a shot by Bob Rouse into the net.
The Capitals had an early 2-0 lead.