Phil Esposito sat wearily in front of his locker Wednesday night and confessed he had been "blithely unaware" of having achieved yet another milestone in his National Hockey League career until it was announced to the crowd.
Esposito's two first-period assists, which helped stake the New York Rangers to a 2-0 lead, were enough to boost him into second place on the league's all-time points list, behind only Gordie Howe. When the record was announced to the capacity audience of 17,500 at Madison Square Garden, the Ranger captain received a standing ovation from fans who have often booed, rather than cheered, the high-scoring center.
"It felt very nice," said Esposito, who also scored two goals in the Rangers' 8-4 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. "I was bithely unaware of the record until I heard it announced.
"I read where I'm supposed to be a product of expansion, but it's nice to have your name mentioned with Gordie," said the Ranger captain. "But I'll never catch Gordie - either in points or goals. I don't care; he can have the record."
Then he quipped. "That is, unless someone was to offer me $800,000 for 800 goals. Then I'd play until I was 90.
Esposito's two scores, giving him 602 goals and 1,354 points, came during a five-goal New York second period that boosted the Rangers to their first win in their last 13 meetings with the Sabres.
Pat Hickey scored twice for the Rangers.
Elsewhere in the NHL.