It's rather a shame that goaltender Ron Hextall of the Philadelphia Flyers wasn't around a dozen or so seasons ago.
The Flyers, who in those days were two-time Stanley Cup champions and known as the Broad Street Bullies, would have loved Hextall and vice versa.
The feisty second-year goaltender would have fit right in with Dave Schultz, Bobby Clarke and other Bullies.
At 6 feet 2 inches and 174 pounds, Hextall was not only the outstanding goaltender in the league last season but also has replaced aging Billy Smith as the meanest one. He began the season on suspension after slashing an Edmonton Oilers player in the Stanley Cup finals last spring.
Instead of coming back subdued, Hextall, who set a record for goaltenders by being penalized 104 minutes last season, has been meaner than ever. Any foe getting within range of Hextall's stick often is whacked by it.
Hextall picked up back-to-back penalties for the second game in a row Tuesday night at Pittsburgh, but he also did a good job of stopping the puck and leading the Flyers to a 5-2 victory over the Penguins. The victory put the Flyers, unbeaten in their last nine games (7-0-2) into third place in the Patrick Division.
Murray Craven, who scored the winning goal Sunday night when the Flyers were two players short because of Hextall's penalties, had three assists and an empty-net goal in this one.
Hextall, who has 24 minutes in penalties this season, says the referees are to blame. "They are watching me much too closely," he said.
"Everybody that comes near the net is taking shots at me. The officials are only seeing me hit back."
Hextall is the reason the Flyers have surged back from last place. In this one, he gave up two goals in the first period, then played brilliantly the rest of the way, stopping 26 shots, including the last 17.
Toronto 5, Washington 3--Russ Courtnall scored twice in the first seven minutes at Toronto and Allan Bester stopped 24 shots to give the Maple Leafs their third win in the last four games.
The win continued the Leafs domination of Patrick Division foes. The Leafs, a below .500 team, are 6-1 against Patrick teams.
Hartford 2, Vancouver 2--The Canucks jumped in front, 2-0, after 25 minutes at Hartford, but they couldn't hold on.
With nine minutes remaining in regulation, Whaler defenseman Dave Babych tied the game on a power-play goal.
New York Islanders 2, St. Louis 2--Mikko Makela scored twice in the first period at Uniondale, N.Y., but the Islanders couldn't maintain the lead.
Herb Raglan's goal near the middle of the third period enabled the Blues to stretch their unbeaten string to four (2-0-2).