NEW YORK (AP) -- In just four games, Theo Fleury looks like his
He's scoring goals, he's annoying the opposition and he has
quite a shiner under his right eye. And, he couldn't be happier.
Fleury scored in his return to Madison Square Garden, giving him
three goals and four points following an NHL suspension, and the
Chicago Blackhawks held on for a 4-3 victory Wednesday night over
the New York Rangers.
The diminutive right wing missed 25 games for violating his
substance-abuse aftercare program. He hasn't missed a beat since
his season started and has points in all four of his games and
goals in three.
Fleury played three troubled years with the Rangers before
signing with the Blackhawks. He was greeted warmly by Rangers fans
when he first took the ice 1:45 in.
"I'll be able to get some sleep now,'' the 34-year-old Fleury
said. "It was fun. I didn't know what to expect, but winning
There were more groans than cheers when he gave Chicago a 1-0
lead at 13:36 with his third goal. Fleury fired a rolling puck from
the top of the right circle that beat goalie Dan Blackburn's
outstretched right pad.
"If it was flat, I don't think I would've scored,'' Fleury
said. "I don't shoot it that hard.''
Fleury thrust his right arm up in celebration as he continued
skating and then put both arms in the air as teammates rushed to
"Although I've only been here a short time, I think we've all
been through a lot here the past couple of months,'' he said. "I
don't think I could have better teammates then the guys that are in
the room right now.''
Eric Daze added three goals, and defenseman Nathan Dempsey had a
career-high four assists as the Blackhawks won for the second
straight night in New York and third in a row overall.
"That's what I love about our team,'' Fleury said. "When we
need things to happen, somebody usually steps up.''
Daze had a goal and an assist Tuesday night in a 3-2 win over
Mikael Samuelsson, Petr Nedved and Rico Fata scored for the
Rangers, who lost their fourth straight. Despite missing captain
Mark Messier because of neck spasms and losing defenseman Sylvain
Lefebvre in the second period to a broken right index finger, New
York mustered a season-best 49 shots at Jocelyn Thibault, including
20 in a frantic third period.
Fleury scored only 15 goals in a disappointing first season in
New York, but responded with 30 in 2000-01 before missing the final
20 games because of a substance-abuse problem. He had 24 goals last
season before being let go by the Rangers.
Daze made it 2-0 at 17:02 of the first and then completed his
fifth career hat trick at 11:59 of the third as Chicago took a 4-1
lead. He missed the first 15 games this season due to a herniated
The Rangers rallied late to put pressure on the Blackhawks,
unbeaten in 47 straight games when leading after two periods.
Thibault allowed only Samuelsson's sixth goal through 40 minutes
despite facing 29 shots. Nedved made it 4-2 with 4:47 left and Fata
got New York within a goal 1:54 later with the first score of his
NHL career. Defenseman Tom Poti, New York's leading scorer, matched
a career-high with three assists.
Nedved missed an empty net with 11 seconds left.
"I turned around and the puck was right on his stick for the
empty net and I thought 'Oh my God, 4-4.,' but he missed,''
Fleury was the first to hug Thibault at the final buzzer.
"We wanted to win the game for us but for him, too,'' Thibault
said. "I'm sure it meant a lot to him that we pulled it off.''
Blackburn made his 17th straight start for the Rangers in place
of injured goalie Mike Richter. He was replaced for the first time
in the streak by Johan Holmqvist to start the second period and New
York trailing 2-0.
"We started the game well,'' Rangers forward Bobby Holik said.
"Just because we were down two goals doesn't mean we played poor
in the first period. We showed heart all the way through.''
Blackburn made six saves, and Holmqvist stopped 16 shots in his
fourth NHL game and first this season.
Fleury is only 5-foot-6, but the lineup card listed him as
6-6. ... The Rangers were also without injured D Brian Leetch, and
forwards Pavel Bure and Matthew Barnaby. ... Dempsey had one
three-assist game, Feb. 7, 2001, against Atlanta. ... Daze's last
hat trick was Dec. 31, 2001. ... The Rangers previous high this
season for shots was 36, done twice.